At the American Diabetes Associations 72nd Scientific Sessions in June, Tandem announced it will begin accepting orders for the t:slim Insulin Delivery System, the first insulin pump approved by the FDA with a touch screen. The diabetes community has been buzzing about t:slim for months and just about everyone I’ve talked to has said, “When can I get one?”
Tandem won’t begin distributing its pumps until August, but at the Children With Diabetes Friends for Life conference in Orlando earlier this month, I had the chance to meet the Tandem team and play with the t:slim for 24 hours. I wasn’t hooked up to the pump, but I could pretend to bolus, and walked around with it. And I have to say that there was something comforting about having an extra insulin pump on me. It was kind of like finding more money in my wallet than I expected to have.
My first impression of the t:slim insulin pump when I saw it sitting on the table in the hotel suite Tandem had set up shop in was “wow, it’s small.” I don’t know why, but I was expecting it to be the size of an iPhone, and it’s actually the size of my minimed 522 and a little bit thinner.
After receiving a thorough explanation, we (the other participants and I) received our loaner pumps. When I received the pump, I was surprised again. The t:slim was much sturdier than I had expected. It felt like a durable tool, not at all like a delicate touch screen gadget. This sense of sturdiness was tested and proven to be true by some of the others who took a t:slim for a 24-hour trial. People tossed them around, dropped them, and wet them, but the pumps survived.
I spent most of my time with the t:slim going through the screens like a kid with a new toy. I felt like I did when I got my first iPhone, and I think one of the best things about the pump was the enthusiastic response I got from people around me. Everyone wanted to see it. Okay, it’s true, most of the people around me had diabetes, but still, everyone there had seen insulin pumps before. When they saw the t:slim it was as if they where seeing something else – a really cool gadget they want and need. I heard reactions like “I want this” or “maybe my daughter will finally agree to get a pump now.” Most of the people trying the pump that I saw seemed to be as happy and excited about this new pump as I was. I met only one person who said she wouldn’t want one.
There are reasons people are interested in seeing the t:slim. It has some very cool features. First off, there is no more scrolling up and down. Like on a smart phone, you type the numbers in and press enter. There is also no need to press escape five times to get to the top menu. You just hit the T on the right of the screen. One of my favorite features on the pump is the profile screen, where you can see all of your personal settings in one place – bolus ratio, basal rates etc. I also really like the calculation screen where you can see how the pump calculates your bolus.
The only real complaint I had was that there seemed to be too many screens needed to “continue” on to bolus – basically, it took longer to bolus than it should have. When I brought this up with the Tandem team I was told that this is a result of the FDA requirements and they expect all new pumps will have to work like this. It’s a safety feature, and while it is a bit annoying, anyone who has made a mistake bolusing knows this isn’t such a bad idea. The t:slim also has a strange technical issue, which could probably go unnoticed if you don’t constantly play with it. But since I was constantly playing with it, I noticed there is a flickering when the screens change.
The bottom line is that the t:slim, overall, seems great. As a pump it is by far the most updated, current and sleek thing I’ve seen. The only problem is that it is only a pump. It doesn’t speak to a meter like the Animas Ping or the recently approved Accu-Chek Combo do. It also doesn’t have a CGM option yet, like the Medtronic Minimed Revel or the Animas Vibe (not yet available in the US). The people at Tandem say this is coming next. They have signed an agreement with DexCom (the same company Animas worked with on the Vibe) and after seeing the seriousness and sincerity of the people at Tandem, I believe them. The only problem is that it will take a while.
If I had to choose a pump it wouldn’t be easy but there’s a good chance I would take the t:slim without the CGM and either have it separately, like all current Dexcom users do, or just not have a CGM like I currently do.
Michael Aviad is co-founder of ASweetLife. He writes the blog Diabetes – It’s an Endurance Sport.
Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelaviad