Category Archives: Reviews

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.
 

Decision 2014: What’s the Snap really like?

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It’s been two weeks for me on the Snap insulin pump from Asante. I’m wearing the Snap as part of a free trial offered by Asante to all prospective customers. They’ll give you four weeks on the pump, supplies included, along with a voucher for the insulin cartridges you’ll need during your trial. So far, this is the only company I’ve considered that offered a free trial. Anyway, since it’s been a two weeks, I thought it might be time to give a little more insight. Hopefully, this won’t be too long… but since I’ve been able to check this one out more than any of the others, I probably have a little more to say about it. Here goes:

Set changes: When you’re working with the Snap, you’re working with pre-filled 300 unit insulin cartridges. The infusion set is self-priming too. You don’t have to worry about reservoir fill-ups or air bubbles, and that means you wind up wasting a lot less insulin just hooking yourself up again. Definitely a plus. As a result, you’ll probably spend more time on each cartridge. For that, Asante plans for you to use one specific set (with the primer(?) connector) for your changes including insulin. Then they want you to use a different set (without the connector) after 72 hours if your cartridge isn’t running out of life juice. I’m not sure how all that works, because personally, I’m not about to do a set change after three days, then another one 48 hours later. I just kept the first set in for the normal 5 days (5 ½?) it takes me to go through 300 units. And unless I’m dealing with some serious heat, that doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem. I will add, also, that the simple time savings of having a pre-filled cartridge isn’t that big a deal for me, though it is nice.

Humalog Only Accepted Here: Also, let’s not forget that the cartridges come in Humalog only. I’ve been primarily a Novolog user up to now. This is only my experience, so take it with a grain of salt: In my 2-plus weeks on the Snap, I’ve found that Humalog brings me down from spikey highs, but it does so in a very slow, stairstep kind of way compared to Novolog. As a result, I’m learning to avoid things like potato chips and pizza. I am getting better at managing my diabetes with Humalog, so this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Though that’s a good thing, it’s crazy to think I’ll never eat those foods again. If I had a choice between the two, I’d stick with Novolog for now.

Striker! You’re coming in too low! (Bonus points if you know which movie that’s from) One of the issues I found (that I don’t remember being covered in training, but I may have missed it) is that when your BG comes in under 70 mg/dL at the moment you’re sitting down for a meal, you can’t use the smart bolus feature. This happened a couple of times during my trial. My pre-meal check came in at 64 or 60, and I couldn’t enter those numbers using the smart bolus feature. To get around this, I wound up entering my BG number for the smart bolus at 70, then dialing down the insulin amount slightly to get to where I think I would be okay, as long as I ate right away. Also: When you do treat before eating, you do have the ability to enter in the carbs you already had (First Carbs), then the carbs you’re about to eat on a separate screen. It will figure out your bolus accordingly.

As a (somewhat) veteran insulin pumper, this feature drives me crazy. But if I was new to pumping, or a CDE or doctor working with someone new to pumping, I might find this a great safety feature. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker or a deal maker for me. It’s just a quirk of using the Snap, and I thought you should know about it.

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I should also mention that the Snap will deliver boluses three different ways: The Now Bolus, Timed Bolus, and Combo Bolus. The Now Bolus is delivered right away. The Timed Bolus delivers your bolus at a specific amount of time (minimum 30 minutes). And the Combo Bolus is pretty much like the Dual Wave bolus on the Medtronic pumps… delivering a set amount now, and a set amount later, predetermined by the user (in 15 minute increments, which I like).

Beep volume: Love, love love the beep volume on this thing. I also love that it’s adjustable. This is such a simple feature. Why can’t other pumps incorporate this idea?

Additional features: The pump has a flashlight feature on it. That’s nice if you need a light and can’t find one anywhere else. Otherwise, turn the light on. If you’re low, your significant other will forgive you. Sorry… I don’t mean to make light of this feature… it shows that the manufacturer has added something that most People With Diabetes will find helpful.

The Snap also has the ability to create more than one basal profile. Again, I think all pumps should have this feature. When I do a long bike ride, I want to be able to change my basal profile for the entire day, not just perform a temp basal then forget about it once it’s complete.

Bolus delivery is pretty fast. Not sure how big a deal that may be for you (it is not a big deal to me), but I thought I would mention it. On the scale of bolus delivery speed, I’d put the Animas Ping at the top, then the Snap, then Medtronic, and t:slim far behind.

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Finding your daily totals and how they translate into 5 day, 10, day, or 14 day averages (14 days is the highest setting) via the Log Book menu item is pretty easy. This is another feature that I don’t remember covering, but it was easy for me to find. Again, I think new pumpers (and their medical teams) may find this helpful.

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Ease of use: The Snap is actually a pretty easy pump to use. Not a lot of clicks to get around to what you need. Menu descriptions make sense. If you like the pre-filled cartridge idea, and the self-priming, that’s an added bonus. I could imagine myself using this pump on a daily basis.

Here’s where I will also tell you that the local pump rep has been fantastic, answering questions and calling me a few days after I began to see if I had any follow-up questions or issues.

In a few days, I’ll be sending the pump back to Asante. Not because I’m not satisfied. Rather, because I want a little time to do some additional research and decide what is best for me from both a patient and an economic perspective.

I hope you’ve found this recap helpful. And if there’s anything else you’d like to know, be sure to ask.
 
 
Disclosure: I’ve been on a standard four week trial of the Asante Snap insulin pump. This is the same trial that is available to all users who are considering starting on insulin pump therapy, or are considering a pump change. I was not given anything by Asante, and I was not asked to write about my experiences. In fact, I did not tell them I’m a writer at all. All opinions, as always, are my own.
 
 
 

Start of the Snap.

Before I begin today, please allow me to say Happy Anniversary to my wife of 21 years. No baseball games tonight Maureen… let’s celebrate!

Part of my day Wednesday was spent getting training and getting started on my four week trial of the Asante Snap insulin pump.

Asante is confident enough in their product to offer a free four week trial of the Snap pump to prospective customers, complete with a voucher to help pay for the Humalog cartridges required for the pump’s use (side note: Asante, you have no idea how much I appreciate the help). In the end, it’s not much different from Medtronic, who, after I would submit insurance paperwork and a prescription, would help me through the process of purchasing the 530g system, then allow me to return it within 30 days if I wasn’t satisfied. The biggest difference between the two (I had to submit the same type of paperwork for my Snap trial) is that for Asante, this is a trial, with the opportunity to go through the purchase process once it’s complete. If I decide not to keep the pump, I already have a postage-paid envelope to drop the pump into to send it back.

After just a couple of days, I can’t speak with much authority on the Snap. So I’ll just give some first impressions.

Maybe I’m a seasoned veteran after 4 ½ years of pumping (I doubt it), but training seemed a pretty easy thing with this pump. My local rep was knowledgeable and able to describe everything about every menu item on this device. Training was simple and straightforward, and the thing that took the longest was probably just inserting the cannula. Part of trying out a new pump also involves trying out a new infusion set. The one I’m using has extra long tubing, which can be a little tough at times. But the extra length really comes in handy when you have to put on a dress shirt for work.

I like that this pump has a volume setting. I cranked that sucker up, and I can actually hear beeps from my pump! I can also turn the volume way down for those times when I’m at a play or at the movies.

Programming a bolus is simple too, though I have one question of anyone using the Snap: After programming a bolus, have you accidentally hit the button to cancel that bolus when returning the pump to your pocket or belt clip? I haven’t done that yet, but it seems like it would be easy to do.

The display is nothing to write home about. Kind of like the Medtronic display (though brighter), I think of it as an MS-DOS screen, if you’re old enough to know what that means.

Taking the display a bit further, I should tell you that Asante is in the process of updating their screens to a color display, which should start happening in late November. Along with that, users will also have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of pump color combinations. So my question was: If I purchased the pump now, would I be allowed to upgrade in November? The answer is… Yes. Anyone purchasing the Snap pump between now and November 15 will not only be able to upgrade their pump to a new color combo and a color display, they will also be allowed to keep their original version too. For someone new to pumping, this could be an easy way to get a backup pump for nothing extra.

I’m not a big fan of the belt clip. But honestly… Can you say you’re a fan of any of the belt clips from any manufacturer? I can’t think of a way to improve belt clips without invoking the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig”.

When my trial is finished, I’ll try to get a little more in depth with the Snap. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to reach out to my rep for the solution. Also, if you have experience with the Asante Snap pump, I’d love to hear some of your insights!

Disclosure: I’m beginning a standard four week trial of the Asante Snap insulin pump. This is the same trial that is available to all users who are considering starting on insulin pump therapy, or are considering a pump change. I was not given anything by Asante, and I was not asked to write about my experiences. In fact, I did not tell them I’m a writer at all. All opinions, as always, are my own.
 
 
 

Book Review: Balancing Diabetes.

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I see a lot of people have written about Kerri Sparling’s book, Balancing Diabetes. Of course, everything I’ve read so far has been from people who were also contributors to the book. So if you will, please allow this independent voice to tell you what I thought about this 200 page offering from Spry Publishing.

I’ve met Kerri Sparling, but I don’t think it’s fair for me to say I know Kerri. My limited exposure to her tells me that what you see is what you get. She’s friendly, helpful, direct, unafraid to take on a delicate subject, and articulate in a way that makes you feel you know exactly what she means. It’s why her book does not disappoint.

In Balancing Diabetes, she covers a number of subjects, including the transition of responsibility of a child’s diabetes from parent to daughter, living the college life, relationships (both platonic and romantic), parenting, exercise, and the various devices we wear.

Now, I have to be honest: There are a lot of subjects in the book I don’t know anything about. College life? I wasn’t able to finish (money), and never lived away from home while going to class. Having children? We always wanted kids, but could never make it happen (money again). But there are plenty of subjects that speak directly to me, in a way that only another person with diabetes can tell it.

There are plenty of people (heroes?) with diabetes that do tell their stories in the book. You’ve probably read or heard of most or all of them. Getting these special people to lend their voices to the project was a stroke of genius. So however you come to the diabetes conversation, there’s someone in there that speaks your language on your subject.

And just like she does on her blog at Six Until Me, Kerri weaves her literary magic throughout each chapter. I especially liked:

– Page 17 “And that’s it–that’s totally it for me” (Chapter One: Making Sense of the New Normal)

– The first paragraph of Chapter Nine (Walking the Blood Sugar Tightrope)

– Every word of Chapter Ten (Fitting Diabetes Devices into Daily Life) and Chapter Eleven (Bringing Your Diabetes to Work)

– Page 193 “Fear is not the best motivator for me” (Chapter Sixteen: Finding Balance and Moving Forward)

Who is this book’s target audience? It’s too easy to say everyone… But yeah, everyone. I think especially if you’re one or two years past diagnosis, this will help you get a handle on the “Okay, I’ve got the day-to-day down… What about the rest of my life?” feeling. Also, this is probably a good primer, a reference book, if you will, for people to look at every now and then when they need a one-of-a-kind perspective from someone who’s been there.

I also think this is a super resource for people in the orbit of someone living with diabetes. Parents, significant others, co-workers. I suspect they would all find this book eye opening and extremely informative.

So if you’re wondering whether it’s worth it, my answer is yes. Go get this book, via Amazon (or Kindle, of course), or wherever else you can locate it. You’ll enjoy reading it, and you’ll want to keep it on the shelf for years to come.

Move along… there is no disclosure to see here. I bought the book, I read it, and all opinions are entirely my own.
 
 
 

Level Foods Review and GIVEAWAY!!!

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UPDATE: Our giveaway winner (according to random.org) is latanya!

Latanya, you have 24 hours to send me your mailing address (e-mail me using the E-Mail Stephen link on the left of this page). Once I get it, I’ll send out your Level Life Box ‘O Goodness. If you don’t get back to me by 12:00 noon EDT on Sunday, I’ll go to the next person on our list. Thanks!
 
 
Life is full of firsts. At least I like to think so. I think there are firsts that happen for us all through our lives. Today is one of those for me. It’s our first giveaway!

I’m going to try to do this justice today, but I know you’re just dying to get to the bottom of this post and find out how you can win some Level Life goodies for yourself. If that’s the case, skip to the end and then come back up here and check out my review of Level Foods’ snack bars and protein shakes.

I’m not always the best person to ask to review things, because for me, it goes like this: If I like a product/book/website, I’ll talk about it. If I don’t, you (usually) won’t hear anything from me. Why? Because it’s hard to put yourself out there, whether you’re posting a video online, writing a book, or developing products that are both tasty and helpful for People With Diabetes. So if I have criticism at all, I generally keep it to myself, or keep it just between myself and the person it’s directed at. On the other hand, if I like something, I want the whole world to know.

Ethan Lewis is a Type 1 and founder of Level Foods. In the past few years, his efforts are coming on strong in development and release of several products that are high in protein and low in carbs, designed to help you keep your BGs level as much as possible (get it? Keep the BGs Level? Level Life? Ahem… moving on…).

Ethan was kind enough to send some samples my way recently, and I had a chance to try out snack bars and shakes carrying the Level Foods brand. For me, they have been exactly as advertised. I tried the Caramel Chocolatey Peanut bar and the Chocolatey Crisp bar, (carb counts: 17g and 18g each, respectively), and both the Vanilla and Chocolate shakes (all Level Life shakes are 10g each). The main takeaway for me was the absolute remarkable feeling of being full after enjoying each of these items. In fact, I had to start drinking only half a shake at a time because I would feel too full if I drank the whole thing at once.

They’ve been good pre- and post-workout snacks for me… making me feel full, but giving me enough fuel to feed my muscles, whatever muscles I have left. My favorite? The Caramel Chocolatey Peanut bar. That seemed to be the big hit overall at our household. They went pretty fast.

So now I have to go get more. The good news is I can get more online at levelfoods.com, and I can go to Target if I don’t want to wait for delivery (it’s okay… I pay cash for nearly everything anyway). Ethan even has a $4.00 USD off at Target coupon offer on the website.

Now, let’s get down to the giveaway. I have what you see in the photo above: A four-pack of both the Strawberry Crème and Rich Caramel shakes, plus a box each of Chocolate Peanut Crunch and Double Chocolatey Chip snack bars. Also included are Strawberry Banana and Mandarin Orange (my favorite) glucose gels (15g of carbs each).

To be eligible to win, just leave a comment below telling me you’d like to win. I’ll accept entries through Friday at midnight Eastern Daylight Time. Then I’ll put everyone’s name in one of those random-generator things and pick a winner, so look for the name in an update on this post Saturday morning. Good Luck!

Disclosure, just in case you didn’t catch it above: I was sent samples of Level Foods products to try. I was not asked to write about them, and I was not paid anything to write about them. I have no working relationship with Level Foods at this time. But I’m happy to give some of my goodies away!
 
 
 

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