I was very lucky to be invited to attend the Roche #DiabetesMeetup held at ATTD in Vienna. About 60 advocates were brought together on the thirty-fifth floor of a building high above Vienna. I reconnected with friends and fellow advocates from Italy, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and welcomed UK advocates for the first time to the blogger group. The dynamic in this room is electrifying – these are smart, passionate, funny, outspoken, opinionated people with high expectations when it comes to their diabetes management experience – exactly the sort of people you want around you when you are developing diabetes technology solutions.

Elena from Italy.

I remain fascinated – and impressed – by these Roche events, even though this is the fourth one I’ve attended. I have a level of frustration at times when attending similar events because instead of them being used as an opportunity for engagement and interaction, they become sales pitches, with attendees being spoken at. I have sat in other events feeling as though I am being told what and how I should feel about my own diabetes with those speaking at me making all sorts of assumptions based on some ridiculous market research that involved anyone other than real people with real diabetes!

By and large, these #DiabetesMeetup events are the very opposite of that.

As I have said before, I am not naïve. I am fully aware that we as bloggers and patient advocates are worth a lot to industry. We blog, we Instagram, we Tweet, we Facebook. We  have a voice and we use it. We have a platform – however big – that means we are very privileged to be able to speak about our experiences and have people listen.

By engaging with us in this way, we have become part of Roche’s – a very big drug and device company – 21st century marketing and communications plan. We are part of their PR machine. And I am absolutely okay with that. I can leave at any time. I can not write about what goes on at these events if I don’t want to.

I have also said before that it would be worse for us to not be part of their plan – or if they were stuck in the 20th century and refusing to actually work with people with diabetes.

Ute Volkmann from Roche Global doing a stellar job running the day.

The reason these events continue to leave an impression is because they are absolutely not an opportunity for Roche to lecture us and do a big whizz bang display of their technologies. Of course we see what they’re up to. But then we tell them what we think. (At the first Roche #DiabetesMeetup I attended in Munich, we were shown their in-development CGM device. The feedback wasn’t all that favourable. I have not seen or heard anything more about this product, and can only imagine that their R&D team had a lot to think about after rather negative reviews from the people who were hoped to be using the device.)

Previously, I have refused to attend advocate sessions in the past because there was an expectation that all attendees would be using the company’s product, and if not, we were expected to hide away any competing devices . Not once at these events has anyone asked me what I use, tried to give me a Roche product or suggested I use one of their devices. (For the record and full transparency, the only Roche product I use is my lancing device which I paid for myself and the lancets that come with it. I’ve not needed to buy more lancets because I think the lancet device came with about 10 of them, so I’m good until about the middle of the century.)

The big ticket item in Roche’s diabetes tech bag at present is the Eversense XL. The announcement at #DibetesMeetup that the implantable sensor now has a lifespan of 180 days. To illustrate the point, we heard that if you inserted a sensor while there was snow on the ground, you would need to replace it in the height of Summer.

Annie and I can always be trusted to bring down the overall tone of an event.

I am all for continued innovation in sensor development, and I can certainly see the appeal of the Eversense. I spoke with a couple of people at the event who were wearing them and their experience had been super positive. I’ve not worn the device and am most interested in the real life experience: how does it feel on?; how annoying is the transmitter and does it fall off?; the tape required for the transmitter to adhere to the skin – does it irritate?  I am also keen to see how Eversense will be able to integrate with existing diabetes tech. And, I’m ever mindful of expected cost to the person with diabetes because I want to know if this is something that will be available and accessible to many people, or just a lucky few.

Roche followed up the blogger event with a symposium on the Friday of ATTD. It was here they announced they would be supporting JDRF’s Open Protocol proposal (which I discussed in yesterday’s post.)

While the formalities are all interesting, it is often the discussions that happen outside the official program that have real impact. I had a couple of very robust conversations about the role PWD have when working with industry. We know there are people in the diabetes community who have a complete and utter aversion to any interaction with device and drug companies.

My position on this is and has always been clear: our role is to be part of every single discussion about diabetes and every level and every step of the way. My only insistence is that there is transparency. I always disclose when I have been funded to attend an event, if I have been given product or working with any company on a project.

I was also involved in a brilliant conversation about the whole idea of sharing CGM data with loved ones. Some people were completely against the idea, unable to consider a single time when they would ever want anyone else to see their CGM numbers or find it useful. Others are big fans of share capabilities, because it makes their families feel safe when they are away. I see both sides to this story.

I had lots of chances to hear what people had been up to and how their advocacy efforts were playing out. One of the wonderful things about coming together every six months or so is that there has been time for projects to grow, blossom and show results. It is always great to hear people doing so well in their endeavours to provide support to others with diabetes.

In a connected world where I see most of these European diabetes advocates online at least every week, it is undeniable that these face-to-face opportunities provide an extra level of support and engagement. I am extraordinarily grateful to have that opportunity – to see, learn from and work with such a dynamic group of people I am fortunate to call friends.

What’s the collective noun for a group of dynamic diabetes advocates?

DISCLOSURE

Roche Diabetes Care (Global) covered my travel and accommodation costs to attend their #DiabetesMeetup Blogger event at #ATTD2018. They also assisted with providing me press registration to attend all areas of ATTD2018. As always, my agreement to attend their blogger day does not include any commitment from me, or expectation from them, to write about them, the event or their products. 

Advertisements