*Disclaimer: All content and information in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only.
There have been many advantages to diabetes technology systems over the years. From finger pricking, continuous glucose monitors, insulin pumps, and now automated insulin delivery systems, the technological advances can be incredibly beneficial to lowering A1C levels and reducing the time spent on daily diabetes management. Do the advancements with automated insulin delivery systems like those with Tandem t:slim x3, Omnipod 5, or Medtronic MiniMed 770G, mean that you stop thinking about diabetes management altogether? We are laying out all the advantages and disadvantages of these systems below.
What is an automated insulin delivery system?
An automated insulin delivery system, also known as a hybrid closed loop system, will use readings from a CGM to determine changes in blood sugar levels and adjust insulin doses, as needed. These pumps use a special algorithm to adjust insulin delivery about every 5 minutes depending on how blood sugar levels are trending. Research shows that these systems can lighten the burden of diabetes by improving timing in range while decreasing diabetes distress and burnout. While these systems are new and exciting, they are not a cure for diabetes. These systems are not completely hands-off and still require users to input carbohydrates at meals, blood sugar levels, exercise, and sleep.Understanding what the advantages and limitations of these systems can help you work with the algorithms versus against them.
What automated insulin delivery systems are available
There are a few automated insulin delivery systems currently available on the market, they include:
- Tandem t:slim x 2 with Control-IQ and Dexcom G6
- Omnipod 5 with Dexcom G6
- Medtronic MiniMed 770G with Guardian Sensor 3
Advantages of An Automated Insulin Delivery System
Advancements in diabetes technology can help lessen the daily burden associated with managing type 1 diabetes. People with diabetes need to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day and inject insulin to manage blood sugar levels. It can be quite a hassle and inconvenient at times. Automated insulin delivery systems offer a solution by measuring blood sugar levels every 5 minutes and adjusting insulin doses automatically.
- Lighten the load of diabetes burden from daily tasks and decision making.
- Automatic adjustments and suggestions based on your CGM readings.
- Decreases the duration and intensity of high/low blood sugar levels.
- Improved sleep from stabilized overnight blood sugars.
Limitations of An Automated Insulin Delivery System
While automated insulin delivery systems can significantly improve diabetes management, they are not perfect systems that will get rid of the total burden that goes along with managing diabetes. These systems are using their algorithm to make the best guess at how your blood sugar will behave, but they have no idea what foods you’ve eaten, what exercise you plan to do or have done, or other activities that may impact blood sugar levels. Additionally, these systems rely heavily on technology which can lead to issues if there are any technology malfunctions. Below are the limitations of these systems to consider:
- Technology Issues (CGMs): bent sensors, performance errors/inaccuracy, disconnection, warm up periods, and bleeding.
- Technology Issues (Pumps): kinked catheter, air bubbles in tubing, disconnection, absorption issues, and skin irritation/infections.
- Personal Preference: users may not trust the systems and prefer to dose themselves.
- Financial Costs: affordability or accessibility issues to insulin pumps is a major barrier that many people with diabetes face, even with insurance.
Automated insulin delivery systems are continuing to evolve and advance which can significantly improve the lives of people with diabetes. But, there are several limitations when utilizing this technology that people with diabetes should be aware of and understand. These limitations should be considered when choosing which management system is best suited for you and your lifestyle.
For a closer look at automated systems, check out Episode 5: Your Automode Matters (and no, we’re not talking about on your pump) where host Lissie Poyner walks you through how you can make the technology work for you and bring predictability to your blood sugars. Available now on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.