Diabetes is at an all-time high—according to the American Diabetes Association, as of 2015 almost 30 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, with 1.7 million new cases being diagnosed every year.1 Although the disease is very much treatable, managing diabetes is a complicated process that requires patients to be attentive of many factors. Blood sugar levels must be closely and constantly monitored to avoid potentially dangerous spikes, and meals and activity must be closely monitored and regulated. When a patient depends on regular doses of insulin, as many diabetic patients do, the process becomes even more of a juggling act.
Problems with insulin management can range from constant, painful injections (if the patient doesn’t use a device to manage it), to difficulties in calculating the correct dosage, to the aesthetic concerns of wearing an insulin delivery device all the time. Patients need their insulin delivery technology to be easy to use, out of the way, and smart enough to calculate the correct dosage based on the myriad of life factors that contribute to variable blood glucose levels. To put it bluntly, diabetic patients have so much to worry about already—they should have to think as little as possible about any device they use.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Insulin pumps revolutionized diabetes management significantly; no more would insulin-dependent patients be forced to endure daily injections as their only choice of treatment. Insulin pumps have been available as wearable devices for a while, but patients often find them difficult to wear—and not particularly flattering—because they’re attached to the body with a series of tubes. They also may require a number of steps to program correctly, which may cause errors when the patient tries to operate the pump initially, or when some kind of adjustment must be made. Insulet Corporation seeks to address this issue with the OmniPod Insulin Management System, a tubeless device that allows for continuous basal insulin delivery and monitoring.
“Traditional pumps can be challenging devices to use that require many steps in addition to being tethered to the patient,” said Shacey Petrovic, chief commercial officer of Insulet. “OmniPod technology provides flexibility with a wireless, tubeless pump that simply adheres to the body to deliver continuous subcutaneous insulin. It is waterproof, and can be placed on the body anywhere you would give yourself an injection (arms, legs or the abdomen) and doesn’t require a patient to disconnect for vigorous activities.”
That’s certainly helpful—after all, a physically active diabetic patient is ultimately a healthier one. But no smart device would be complete without an included management system to keep the patient on top of their schedule. OmniPod also features a Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM) that gives patients a digital helping hand in managing their condition. “The Pod automatically syncs with a PDM to ensure proper dosage and alerts the patient of any changes needed,” says Petrovic. “When OmniPod syncs with the PDM, it generates data in a digestible way that provides patients with the opportunity to take control, make positive changes, and adjust activities.”
Let’s not forget aesthetics; an insulin management device that’s easy to use should, ideally, also be easy to conceal. OmniPod’s design also considers how self-conscious many diabetes patients can be about wearing an easily visible device all the time to manage their condition. As it’s only about the size of a small strawberry, it’s easy to discreetly wear. Because of these aesthetic concerns, adherence can be difficult for continuous insulin delivery devices, but Petrovic is hopeful, “The OmniPod fosters better patient adherence due to the 72 hour continuous insulin delivery, which means better control, which leads to better outcomes. Patients fall in love with the simplicity of the technology.”
A Self-Powering Injection Pen
Not all diabetic patients want or require a continuous insulin delivery system, however. In lieu of regular injections, many turn to injector pens, which are much easier for patients to manage than a regular injection because of measured dosage and simplified, less painful delivery. Cambridge Consultants has leveraged smart technology to create KiCoPen, an injector pen that should vastly improve diabetes management with a number of helpful features.
“The device captures the exact insulin dose delivered and wirelessly transmits the information to an associated smartphone app,” said Bo Petersson, head of diabetes care at Cambridge Consultants. “The associated app seamlessly gathers data on blood glucose levels, activity, and food consumption, and integrates it with insulin dosage. Local and cloud-based analytics turn the data into real-time actionable insights—helping the patient stay in control.”
It’s true that other similar technologies already exist, but KiCoPen brings something very new to the table—there’s no battery in the device at all. How is that possible, you might ask, because an auto-injector needs to be powered by something, and plugging it into the wall would be quite cumbersome. “KiCoPen uses energy harvesting instead of a battery—the action of removing the injector cap powers the device,” said Petersson. “Eliminating the battery in KiCoPen gives greater design freedom to create a better user experience. It also means the injector can be more reliable, manufacturing and assembly effort is reduced, and the device can have a lower environmental footprint. And it proves to manufacturers that such an innovative, low-cost design can be applied to pre-filled pens.”
As mentioned before, compliance is key for diabetes patients to effectively manage their glucose levels. Trying to actively monitor and regulate blood glucose levels and keeping track of insulin dosage can be overwhelming for patients, especially when they first begin insulin therapy. Plus, glycemic control must occur early on to avoid complications later in life. “KiCoPen allows the patient to be confident they are on track with their daily insulin regimen,” said Petersson. “This, in turn, improves the patient’s compliance and results in better glycemic control—helping to reduce late-stage complications.”
1“Fast Facts: Data and Statistics About Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association. N.p., Mar. 2015. Web.