John Sjolund is the CEO and co-founder of Timesulin, a company that makes a clever digital insulin pen cap that keeps track of your dosing. You may have heard about their launch in Canada on Oct. 1 and Finland in mid-November, but we’re still awaiting word on the timeline for a U.S. launch… Meanwhile, as head of this company and also a person living with type 1 diabetes for over a quarter-century, John is uniquely qualified to speak to our community’s needs when it comes to diabetes tech. He stepped forward recently asking to share some thoughts in response to our recent D-tech research here at the ‘Mine:
A Guest Post by John Sjolund
Last week, I sat down and took a few minutes to read the DiabetesMine 2013 Patient Voices Survey, and it felt like someone had finally nailed down how I feel about diabetes technology. I’m sure this resonated with lots of people within the DOC (diabetes online community), because it reflects what a lot of us have to deal with on a daily basis — a lot of devices that can be complicated to use, are expensive to get and maintain, and technology that operates independently without syncing and sharing information with our other devices. Put simply, we don’t really need MORE devices, we need solutions that simplify what we already do.
Healthcare companies have primarily focused on solving the issue of having to take fewer shots and deal with fewer finger pricks. But, this study showed that while that’s still a concern, the overwhelming majority of the T1D community really wants three main things: fewer glucose highs and lows; a stronger feeling of control over their care regimen; and less daily hassle. This response very much mirrors my own concerns and wishes for better and easier diabetes management.
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to take multiple injections every day. I wouldn’t have to test my blood sugar 7-10 times a day. And I wouldn’t have to count carbs, calculate insulin dosages, and inevitably deal with frequent high and low blood sugar. But, for now, I realize that this is the reality of diabetes care. And while I’m committed to dealing with this process, I would like there to be solutions that take away some of these steps, instead of adding on to them. Ultimately, I want to have to think less about my diabetes care — not more.
One of the biggest trends that I’ve noticed over the last few years has been being able to collect a huge amount of data about our diabetes care, including trends about our highs and lows, food and carb tracking, etc. Oftentimes, however, this data is raw and doesn’t provide any way to gain simple insights or make actionable decisions. Add to that the fact that a lot of this data is available on separate devices that don’t interact with one another, and you end up with a lot of information that’s too difficult and time-consuming to make any sense out of it. We don’t need more data, more USB cables, more apps, or complicated calculators. We need to be able to make more sense out of the data we already have!
I do think that the healthcare community has made incredible strides over the last decade in diabetes care. But, we still have a long way to go. Technology like CGMs (continuous glucose monitors) are amazing. However, they’re expensive and out of reach for many of us. The fact that I have to buy the devices out of pocket is challenging for me, personally. Also, having to pick the times to wear my sensors and ration them is a huge hassle.
Even programming my blood sugar meter can be complicated. I sometimes feel like I need a PhD in computer science just to change the clock on mine. I recently used a blood sugar meter that automatically updates the time and syncs to your phone. More companies should build simple features like this into their devices, because it actually makes a huge difference. I think that if I were more confident that the clock on my multiple blood sugar devices were all synced, the data would be much more valuable to me and I could bring it to my doctors for feedback.
Another big concern for me is how to get unbiased information about the drugs I use: should I switch to a new type of insulin? How do I even find out if I should?
As someone who has lived with T1D for over two decades, and runs a technology company geared towards making diabetes care more simple and manageable, creating simple, accessible devices should be the focus of every healthcare company. Each new device we develop should reduce the complexity of the system and increase the value of everything else in the ecosystem.
If we can start focusing on the small changes that really help simplify our life, we’ll be taking small steps towards a better overall diabetes care regimen.
We couldn’t agree more, John! And on that note, we just HAD to share this image courtesy of @pancreaspumper: