So, last week I came home to an exciting delivery from FedEx: my brand new Dexcom G4 Platinum system! Unfortunately, my excitement was tempered by the fact that the system did not come with any sensors; those were shipped separately and got stuck somewhere in Indianapolis for a week. I spent several breakfasts staring wistfully at the Dexcom G4 box on my dining room table, like a kid who got an exciting new present for Christmas that didn’t come with batteries.
But the sensors finally arrived last night, and I wasted no time in sticking one onto my stomach to give the system a go. Two hours later, I was up and running. It’s now been about 12 hours, and here are my early impressions:
- The Dexcom G4 insertion device is the same — a little tricky when you do it for the first time, but then straightforward. It didn’t feel any different, pain-wise, than the Dexcom SevenPlus.
- The G4 transmitter, which is the part that actually sits on top of your skin, is thicker than the one for the SevenPlus. This is surprisingly annoying, since even though the difference is not objectively very big, you can feel it — this one gets caught on things more easily (I imagine I’m going to rip a couple off accidentally), and also is quite visible
under any type of even vaguely form-fitting clothing (women are so much more difficult to hide things on than men). A customer service representative had actually warned me about this, so I wasn’t taken entirely by surprise — but I did find it confusing, because all the marketing material makes a big deal about the fact that the G4 sensor is 60 percent smaller than that of the SevenPlus. So be aware: the sensor is the wire that sticks under your skin. That presumably is indeed much thinner (I personally can’t feel it either way, but maybe this will lead to less skin irritation).
- On the flip side, the reason that the transmitter is bigger on this version is that it has a much longer range than the SevenPlus, meaning you could conceivably leave your Dexcom on, gasp, the other side of the room and not get an annoying “out of range” message.
- The body of the Dexcom G4 receiver itself (the thing you see your numbers on) is a great improvement on the one from the SevenPlus — less bulky, rectangular instead of oval, and (drum roll) in color! But I just don’t get why they don’t let you scroll back in time instead of scrunching up hours until the trend line is so thick that you have no idea WTF your blood sugar was. It doesn’t make sense. This is especially noticeable because the new design of the receiver is remarkably similar to the 2nd generation iPod — you know, the one with the scroll wheel? — and I keep wanting to use the wheel to scroll back in time. But no, that does not work.
I also do not understand why it is set to display values from 40 mg/dl to 400 mg/dl, and you can’t change it. I never go up to 400. I rarely even get close to 300. That means that pretty much half of the screen is wasted. I have complained about all this before, and am hopeful that they change it in the next version, since it is a very obvious missing feature that was available on the Navigator back in 2009.
- Here’s something exciting that is definitely an improvement over the SevenPlus — you can change the volume of the alerts! (I know you could do that to a certain degree with the SevenPlus, but this one has more options.) This is nice because it makes it easier to ensure that the Dexcom will actually wake you up in the middle of the night if there’s a problem (I have slept through many an alarm before, due to its low pitch and soft sound). I’m going to play around with that feature tonight and see how it goes. There’s also an adjustable snooze feature, so you can pick the time between alerts. This is a good thing.
In short, my overall impression is that the biggest improvement over the previous version is likely in its accuracy, though I can’t speak to it yet. I appreciate the design improvements in the body of the receiver, and the color screen is nice, but I think there are some extremely simple and obvious improvements to the data display that I really hope Dexcom takes into consideration in its next version. Likewise, I really hope that they launch software that works on the Mac, so that I actually have a reason to add in events and analyze my data beyond just an in-the-moment snapshot of where I am. Right now Dexcom still takes a very zen attitude toward diabetes management: with no ability to scroll back in a meaningful way, and with no Mac-compatible software to help me analyze trends, I’m stuck in the moment. Which I guess is a good place to be — but I’d like to number crunch a bit, too.
With all my critiques aside, though, I am thrilled to have the new system, and I remain extremely grateful to Dexcom for pushing the vanguard of continuous glucose monitors. Being able to see your blood sugar in real time is an enormously helpful tool in managing this disease, and I look forward to the day when everyone with diabetes has access to this technology. I can hardly imagine managing my blood glucose without it.