Monthly Archives: April 2016

Customer service woes? Dexcom’s working on it.

If you’re a User of the most popular CGM on the planet; and if you’ve needed help from Dexcom’s customer support lately; you may have had a less than stellar experience.

I got a chance to speak with Kevin Sayer about that yesterday. Kevin is Chief Executive Officer at Dexcom. He gave me a rundown of how Dexcom is working on solving some of the issues their customers have been facing.

I asked Kevin if the latest customer service initiatives are a function of Dexcom sales growing faster than their customer service function, or if they’re just looking at things with a fresh set of eyes. The answer is yes to both of those. According to Dexcom’s quarterly report released this week, revenues are up 60 percent over this time last year. That’s a lot. He explained it by saying that it’s one thing when Dexcom was growing from 2,500 to 5,000 customers. But Dexcom is still growing fast, and they now have greater than 150,000 customers. That means when you have problems, they become a lot bigger a lot faster than they used to be. So they were forced to take another look at customer service.

As a result, Dexcom has introduced some initiatives designed to reduce the burden on patients who really could use less burden in their lives.

To begin with, they’re rolling out a phone system upgrade. The idea is to reduce wait times and queues. They’ve introduced a new feature where, when phone lines are busy, a customer can opt to have Dexcom call them back without the customer losing their place in the queue. So hopefully, people won’t be on hold forever anymore.

They’re also adding additional customer service reps. Those hires should continue through the month of May.

In addition, Dexcom has made some website upgrades. There are new self service options, and there have been improvements to the online store. Kevin put it this way: “If you’re ordering supplies at 11 o’clock at night, which is what I’d be doing, we want it to work well.”

Finally, there are training and video updates. More descriptive videos, easier access to videos, and the rollout of something brand new for Dexcom: live webinars.

One of the challenges Mr. Sayer relayed to me is the idea that with the Dexcom G5 system, they were no longer answering questions about sensors and receivers. Receivers that Dexcom designed and manufactured. They were now getting inquiries about sensors and phones. Phones that they didn’t design and don’t manufacture. So that slows up customer service a bit, though he feels they’re getting better at it.

At the end of our conversation, we talked about Dexcom at ten years old. How does he feel about shepherding the company into its second decade?

Kevin admitted that there aren’t a lot of examples to go by in the diabetes device world, because so many have gone out of business before reaching the ten year mark. So in a way, Dexcom is blazing its own trail, while still growing its customer base in a big way. And he told me something that I would expect every CEO to say: Dexcom’s patients are the most important part of their business.

Let’s hope that the phone system upgrades, website improvements, and customer service hires help Dexcom come through for their patients for many more years to come.
 

Checking In.

Hi… how are you? I’m doing well now, thanks.

When I started this blog over four years ago, one of my goals was to keep sort of a history of my life with diabetes. So every now and then, I sit down and chronicle what’s been going on in my world. Partly for me (it’s my blog, after all); and partly for any family (and you’re family) that may come by, now or later, to find out what was really on my mind back in the spring of 2016. So here’s the latest:

You probably know I’ve been traveling a lot. Las Vegas in March, Northern Virginia a couple of weeks ago, California a few days after that. On the way home from Las Vegas, I had a cough, but I attributed it to the dry climate, and thought I would be better once I got home. Then, on my flight home, I wound up next to someone with a mask on (or off and on) through the flight, who was coughing a lot. A couple of days later, I was real people sick, which turned out to be bronchitis, which I never had before. It was treated, but apparently not enough, because a couple of weeks after that, I came down with something else I never had before: pneumonia. Long story short, a couple of weeks of antibiotics, and I’m back to my old self. Thank goodness, ’cause I felt pretty awful there for a few days. Pneumonia takes no prisoners.

Traditionally, my blood sugar runs high when I travel. Chalk it up to a mixture of food I don’t always eat (and thus have trouble bolusing for), and the fact that I’d rather be high than dangerously low when I’m in a hotel room by myself.

But lately, travel has been no trouble at all. Except for one weird breakfast occurrence in Los Angeles where, after breakfast, I found myself low, then ate the carbs I intentionally ignored over breakfast, then suspended my pump, then ate candy, then ate Skittles (thanks Karen). That kind of low doesn’t happen very often. It must have been the animated conversation.

At home, it’s been a revolving door of sorts. It seems like just when I get home, The Great Spousal Unit is headed somewhere herself. So there has been a fair amount of time at home alone for both of us, though we did travel together for the Friends for Life Falls Church event (and I’m super grateful she decided to come with me/let me drag her down there).

Here in Maryland, it’s finally spring. The azaleas are blooming, I have to mow the grass once a week, and plans are being made for throwing mulch down in multiple beds around the yard. I also put up a new window box for Maureen. She was ecstatic.
WindowBox
I got the vegetable garden started over the weekend (which is a week or two late for me– blame travel and the weather), so in a couple of months at most I should be feasting on home grown lettuce just about every night. I can’t wait.

The BGs at home have been playing nice too, mostly. I just have the feeling that my basal rates are really good right now. My dietary bolus needs have changed a bit over time… does that happen to you too? I don’t even touch half a bagel anymore, let alone a full one. Requires gobs of insulin to bring me back down into range, no matter how much I pre-bolus. Seriously, I’m finding that a donut requires less insulin than a bagel these days. Potatoes don’t seem to require much for me now. Bread, on the other hand, is a nuisance. Pepperidge Farm makes a low carb bread that I found a couple of weeks back though, and it actually tastes like bread and requires far less insulin to cover, so when I’m eating a sandwich or toast, it’s at least a decent option.

Other than that, I must admit to going primarily low carb in the last five or six months. Not crazy low carb, but… you know how People With Diabetes say that over the years, orange juice starts to taste like medicine instead of juice? Well, for me, mindless carbs are starting to look like poison to me. I still eat a little of the poison here and there, but I’m also okay with a salad for dinner and something like quinoa rather than rice. My BGs and my weight have responded positively.

Okay, so that’s a lot of my life right now. How’s it going with you? I’d really like to know. Let’s talk!
 

Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum.

MedtronicDAF
Full disclosure: Medtronic paid for my travel, hotel, and meals so I could attend this event. All thoughts, on all media, are my own and are never for sale.

I was fortunate enough to attend the latest Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum last week in Los Angeles, California. To be honest, it was pretty short on advocacy and long on Medtronic.

But I look at it this way: first, we did come up with a couple of good advocacy ideas (and by we, I mean someone other than me). I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder, so I won’t reveal anything yet. But watch this space for more later. Second, if I was told ahead of time that I would get a chance to interact directly with top leaders at Medtronic Diabetes, I would have said yes anyway.

So, while it wasn’t exactlly what I expected, it was definitely worth the trip.

What did I learn? I learned that Medtronic Diabetes went through a change about a year and a half back. They have some newer people and newer roles, and they are now looking at what they do through a different lens. That includes a new mission statement:

Transforming Diabetes Care Together
for Greater Freedom and Better Health

 
Every presentation from every person we talked to revolved around the tenets of the mission statement. Here are some of the things I heard:

From Louis Dias, Chief Patient Officer: “In order to transform patient lives, it’s important to keep patient stories in mind so we can transform ourselves.”

From Alejandro Galindo, President, Intensive Insulin Management: “No two diabetes journeys are the same, but they could all be a little better.”

From Annette Bruls, President, Diabetes Service and Solutions: “Medtronic’s next generation solutions seek to answer the questions How have I been doing? How will I be doing? What should I be doing?”

From Hiten Chawla, Senior Director of Marketing, Non Intensive Diabetes Therapies: “We’re working on solutions to improve disease understanding, management, and outcomes for Type 2s and those with pre-diabetes.”

From Hooman Hakami, Executive Vice President and President, Medtronic Diabetes: “We plan to add 19 million more patients by 2020.” (side note: I was assured later that this does not mean 19 million more pumpers, but rather 19 million more patients’ lives improved through Medtronic efforts in the next four years)

There was a lot more, including a panel discussion over lunch that included everyone mentioned above, plus Dr. Francine Kaufman.

Throughout the day, I was impressed by all of the attendees, including the ones from outside the USA. I was encouraged that at the times they needed to, people were able to speak in their own languages and be heard and communicated with in their own languages. It wasn’t always loving. There were some difficult questions, but never a dull moment.

There were a few questions I wish I’d have asked. I’ve gone back and asked them since. How much is Medtronic paying IBM to use Watson’s supercomputing power to crunch data? And what kind of data is being crunched? Is it just data uploaded to CareLink? Is it all data uploaded to CareLink, for all pump and CGM configurations, or just some? I’ll let you know what the answers are.

You can probably tell from the statements above that everyone there is drinking the Kool Aid. Which is good, if you want to actually accomplish the goals you set for your company. I’m also jaded enough to know that it’s really rare that everyone is on board with the mission. And I know that regardless of how the mission looks today, changes will be made over the next few years. That’s the way it goes in business. To stay relevant, you adapt. Anyway, I like what I’m hearing so far.

I must give special thank yous to Amanda Sheldon, Senior Director of Global Content Strategy; Karrie Hawbaker, Senior Manager, Social Media; and Naomi Ruperto, Social Media Community Manager. They went out of their way and then some to make attendees feel welcome, answer questions, and take on a couple of tough issues of their own.

So while it wasn’t all-advocacy-all-the-time, the Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum packed a lot of information into a short time frame. Let’s watch together to see how they deliver on the message of transforming diabetes care together for greater freedom and better health. If they pull it off, we’ll all be better for it.
 

It’s back: #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes

IWPKTD

Welcome to the second annual #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes Day, brought to you by Kelly Kunik, who would be pleased as punch (made with 100 percent juice) if you would share your thoughts on the subject, using the #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes hashtag. Write, share, and join us for the #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes and #DSMA Twitter chat tonight at 9:00 eastern time here in the USA.

It’s an interesting paradigm: Diabetes is invisible to many, though it certainly is not to those of us living with it. At some point nearly every Person With Diabetes is reluctant or fearful to open up and reveal the challenges that come with managing blood sugar every single minute of every single day for the rest of our lives. Yet, it can be cathartic, rewarding, and yes, overwhelming to actually do that and tell our story to the world.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes is not easy. It’s not “set it and forget it”. It’s not a series of rules or directives that will move us instantly to BG nirvana if we follow them all to the letter.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes is a lot more involved than that. It’s dealing with insurance and doctor visits. It’s dealing with keeping our insulin warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer so it doesn’t go bad. It’s dealing with bad infusion sites, and continuous glucose monitors that can’t work in lockstep with our meters. It’s dealing with the thirst and sluggishness of high glucose, and the hangover feeling of low blood glucose.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes means also living with the possibility and the fear of complications. A number of co-morbidities can result from living with this disease, and if we do experience one or more of those, it doesn’t mean that “this happened because we weren’t taking care of ourselves”. And you never have the right to suggest such a thing. Ever.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes costs one heckofalotta money. Remember, we have to not only live with diabetes every day the rest of our lives; we have to also pay for the privilege. Prescriptions, durable medical supplies, insulin pumps, CGMs, and enough supplies for unexpected lows. In my country, it amounts to thousands of dollars out of our pocket every single year, for as long as we live.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes gets even tougher as you get older. Here in the USA, people who have come to rely on CGM technology to help them avoid dangerous lows must give up their CGM once they reach age 65, or engage in a long appeal process to keep it, because our Medicare program won’t cover it.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes needs more voices, and more support for those voices. In the past four years that I’ve been writing in this space, I’ve come across so many brilliant and helpful people that continuously raise the level of discussion and advocacy for those living with and affected by diabetes. But no one person can connect with every person via the information superhighway. So we need more voices, from more perspectives, in more places, to bring diabetes awareness and support to match the need for awareness and support among every segment of our health care systems, economies, and governments.

Your story is important. Share liberally. Thank you for being such an important part of this community.
 

#FFLFC16: A Weekend Well Spent.

Over the weekend, I was able to attend another gathering where People With Diabetes were able to learn, share, and enjoy the company of one another.

From the team that brings you the Friends for Life conference in Orlando each July, the Falls Church, Virginia version was a welcome weekend spent with a different group than I’m used to hanging out with.

But that’s good, because I like families, I like kids, and I definitely like meeting new people. Over the course of two and a half days, I was also able to get back up to speed on the latest in Artificial Pancreas research from two groups, get firsthand accounts of the amazing development of the Nightscout system, and I was able to take in (and speak with attendees) about advocacy issues including Medicare CGM coverage, our relationship with FDA, #SuspendBidding, and more.

This event was pretty well attended, and the location couldn’t be better. From a purely personal perspective (and this has nothing to do with the content of the conference), the buffet meals were really good. Lots of options, including gluten free, and carb counts on everything.

The content of the sessions, as you might expect, varied depending on whether they were for adults, kids, or parents. The adult sessions included Dr. Korey Hood from Stanford covering diabetes burnout; a guide to applying the glycemic index to what you eat by Gary Scheiner; nearly a full day on diabetes advocacy from the super team of Christel Marchand Aprigliano and Bennet Dunlap; and finding support through social media with Kerri Sparling.

There was also an exhibit space that featured every U.S. pump maker except Medtronic, Roche (and their latest Accu-Chek meter—I’m interested), the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (with laptops people could use to e-mail their elected officials in Congress and the Senate!), and both the American Diabetes Association and JDRF.

A couple of tidbits from the weekend: we were told that this was the first Children With Diabetes conference that featured more adult attendees with diabetes than kids or families. And, it looks like Jeff Hitchcock and Laura Billetdeaux are looking at options to come back to the Capitol area for another conference very soon. Which I think would be fantastic. It was three years between events in the D.C. area, and that’s too long to wait.

The Great Spousal Unit likes to say that after a diabetes event, I come home more energized, and walking on air for a considerable time afterward. Since she made the trip with me this time, I think she now knows why. I hope she does. Because no matter how often I gather with people who walk the same path I do, it still means a great deal to me to be together with them in the same space.

Thanks to all of the staff and volunteers at Friends for Life Falls Church for being so welcoming, helpful, and informative. And in case you were wondering, I was not given anything to say that. It comes straight from the heart.
 

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