On Saturday, Medtronic Australia hosted their first Diabetes Advocates Day. Ten or so advocates from across Australia came together to hear about new technologies and talk about real-life application of technology in our diabetes lives.

There were some familiar faces and some newbies too which is always great to see. I, most opportunistically, used my role as facilitator for the day to get book recommendations from as part of the ice–breaker session. (Truthfully, this is always one of my favourite parts of these events, but it can also be a challenge when the people in the room are all over-sharing bloggers!)

There were a couple of standout moments throughout the day worth sharing.

Melbourne endocrinologist, Professor David O’Neal, gave a great talk on the future of diabetes technology.

David is one of those endos who after you meet and hear speak, you want to make him your endo for life. He is ridiculously tech savvy and his knowledge of diabetes technology is hard to beat. If you Google him, you’ll see that he is a regular contributor to diabetes journals and is involved in a lot of diabetes tech research.

Which is all good and well, but the real reason David is so wonderful is because he completely ‘gets’ diabetes and what technology can actually offer us. As a tech geek, it’s easy to be completely and utterly captivated by the technology, but David readily admits it has limitations.

This is really important to remember. Too often we forget that the tools we have today are not perfect, and cannot seamlessly mimic a fully functioning pancreas. Most importantly, this is not the fault of the person using the tech. David acknowledged both of these points in the opening to his talk.


I really love that David mentioned this because so often when technology doesn’t work the way it is meant to, there is an assumption that it is the fault of the user. We mustn’t have pressed the right button, at the right time, in the right order, with the right calculation.

But actually, the tools are just not smart enough to account for the daily changes and variabilities and inconsistencies that play a pivotal role in life and impact our diabetes. As David said, insulin requirements overnight can fluctuate by up to 200%. There is nothing available at the moment that is equipped to deal with that sort of variation.

Add to that, the effect of exercise, food, stress, hormones, illness or pretty much anything else, and there is no way the tech can keep up – or those of us using it can work out how to factor it all in.

This constant need to makes changes is what sets diabetes technology apart from other medical technologies which are often ‘set and forget’ for the wearer. With diabetes devices, there is no such luxury, which is why we need to remember that often, technology actually adds work to our already significant list of diabetes tasks.

Another absolute gem from the day came from blogger and advocate Melinda Seed. During a discussion about HCPs reticence to deal with PWD’s research online, was her comment (as tweeted by Georgie Peters):

This really is turning the whole ‘Dr Google’ thing on its head. Instead of fearing the internet – and PWD who use it to research and better understand our health condition, surely HCPs could engage to discuss safe ways to do that research. Being part of the solution rather than just fearing it makes a lot of sense.

And perhaps, look at it the way David O’Neal chooses to:

In a roomful of tech-heads, there was also a moment where we considered those who have no interest in using any sort of newer tech available. With the dawn of new hybrid closed-loop systems that take even more control away from the user, how do we make that leap to completely trusting the device? And is this particularly difficult for those of us who identify as control freaks when it comes to our diabetes management?

Affordability and access also came up, reminding me – and hopefully those from the company producing the devices – that this needs to be a consideration at all steps of the conversation. There is no point in developing and releasing onto market whiz-bang tech if people can’t afford to use it. (And we also must remember that as every new piece of tech is released, the divide between the haves and have-nots becomes more and more cavernous – especially when you remember ‘have-nots’ refers to not only the unaffordable tech, but also to basic needs such as insulin…)

DISCLOSURE

The Diabetes Advocates Day event was hosted by Medtronic Australia and was supported by Diabetes Australia. I am employed by Diabetes Australia as Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Consumer Voice, and attending and facilitating the event was part of this role.

There was no expectation by Diabetes Australia or Medtronic Australia that I would write about the event, and my words here and in other online spaces are mine and mine alone. For more, check out the #DAdvocatesAU hashtag on Twitter and keep an eye out for blogs by other attendees.

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