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Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum – 2016 Highlights

Words by Jen Hanson | Images by Mike Last

Medtronic has been a partner of Connected in Motion in Canada since our inception. In fact, Medtronic Canada helped the idea of Connected in Motion morph from some sketches Chloe Vance’s spiral notebook into a… thing. They, along with Bayer Diabetes (now Ascensia – wait, what? Who? More on that soon), were the two companies that believe that CIM could be more than just an idea and put their networks, experiences, and their financial support into the very first Slipstream Weekend in 2009. Since then, Connected in Motion in Canada has continued to partner with Medtronic, bringing programs to life across the country, providing product trial opportunities (CIMers were some of the first people in the country to get to try the Enlite sensor when it first came out – want your own opportunities to try out new-to-market (and some already existing) products – join our Beta Testing Team!)


Here in Canada, we are constantly hearing about the initiatives going on in the United States around Type 1 diabetes advocacy, the online community, and other Type 1 diabetes themed get-togethers. Although there is much that we love about the Type 1 diabetes community in Canada (it’s generally focused, there isn’t so much going on that you forget what’s going on, our Type 1 community is tight-knit, etc.), we are often left out of much that happens south of the border – even when the ideas, the technology, and the experiences are really not that different than our own. (Here in Canada, I feel like we’ve got really good at translating in all things into Canadian – mg/dL into mmol/L, miles into kilometres, thresh suspend into low suspend – and politely smiling and nodding when things are really not relevant or we just don’t get it.)


Needless to say, we were thrilled when we heard that the Canadians were being invited down to Medtronic’s annual Diabetes Advocates Forum (#MedtronicDAF) in Los Angeles – along with a group of 5 advocates from Latin America. We were even more excited when we heard that Connected in Motion would get to be a part of the endeavour.

On Wednesday March 13, I had the opportunity, on behalf of Connected in Motion (I, being Jen Hanson), and Kayla Brown, on behalf of Type 1 Diabetes Memes and Kayla’s Life Notes, travelled to Los Angeles, California, to join 20 other advocates from across the Americas to learn about what Medtronic has on the go, to ask lots of questions, and to take part in a brainstorming session around how the online Type 1 community could come together to affect change. (Disclaimer: Medtronic paid for flights, accommodation and food for this 1-day advocacy event.)

Here is what we learned.

Learning #1:

Transforming Type 1 Diabetes Care Together, for Greater Freedom and Better Health

We had the chance to learn more about the vision of Medtronic Diabetes and to get down to the nuts and bolts of what it really means – how it guides them as an organization and what it means  for patients. A recurring theme throughout the day was ‘Actionable Insights’. This was refreshing to hear – The idea that information, outcomes, and insights are only valuable if we can do something with it. What use is a CGM graph if it doesn’t give us information to make change. And if making that change isn’t easy. Our first thought – Medtronic still has a long way to go. But we like this direction. Check out, for instance, the new Carelink platform, now mimicking what was available for on the Pro platform in your diabetes clinic.

We also had the chance to talk about what ‘together’ meant to Medtronic President, Hooman Hakami. He talked about the reorganization of Medtronic, most noticeably over the last 6 months, to address a need for greater collaboration with patients. He talked about the creation of a senior leadership position dedicated solely to bettering the patient experience (see more on that, below), and about next steps for the company hinged on further segmenting the Type 1 community to recognize the diverse and differing needs of peds, teens, adults, and seniors.


Learning #2:

Medtronic and IBM-Watson Partnership

We’ll admit. This is pretty cool. In case you missed the announcements about the Medtronic-IBM Watson partnership from a year ago, read more here. You know Watson – the super computer and artificial intelligence that beat out 2 Jeopardy reining champions in a competition not long ago? Last year, Medtronic partnered with IBM on a project that would use Watson’s intelligence to help improve the future of pumping with Medtronic. We learned specifically about the ability that Watson will have to help the next models of pumps better be able to analyze the past (How have I been doing?), to recommend current actions (What should I be doing now?) and to predict changes to come (How will I be doing?) For folks who have had the chance to try, or who currently wear the 640G (we’re not jealous at all, European friends!) they have already seen some of this technology put to use.

There was also a lot of talk about bluetooth being built directly into Medtronic pumps to avoid the need of any receivers (similar to what the Dexcom G5 Share is doing now.) We respect the honesty, but were a bit disappointed to hear that the technology is not currently being built into the pumps that are coming next in the pipeline. We can look forward to hearing more about these advancements in anything past the 670G, slated to be released… dare we say it… soon (in the US.) 


Learning #3:

New Senior Executive Position: Chief Patient Officer

As mentioned above, Medtronic in the US recently went through a pretty large reorganization. Part of that reorganization involved the appointment of Louis Dias, Chief Patient Officer. What’s that, you ask? Louis’ role at Medtronic is to work to make the patient experience better. His background is in patient experience at Johnson and Johnson, working in vision care, so it was no surprise to hear him talk about the challenges that having visual impairment can have for individuals using insulin pump therapy – A scary thought when it comes alongside some of the stats he shared with us about the trends and prevalence of myopia around the world, especially in the Type 1 community.

Louis has been trained as a design thinker. We are excited to see how his background might shift the progression of product design and increase user pleasurability moving forward.


Learning #4:

Medtronic Integrations & Partnerships

Questions were brought forward around Medtronic using solely proprietary hardware and software and the company’s seeming unwillingness to collaborate or ‘conform’ across the market. Think Luer-lock infusion sets and Dexcom integrations. We’re seeing more and more of it lately. Most infusions sets use a Luer-lock system. Except Medtronic’s sites. Which mean that you cannot really shop around for infusion sets. (For example – Tandem, Animas and Roche all use Luer-lock style reservoirs, which essentially means that infusions sets can be used for any of these pumps interchangeably…) We’ve also seen Dexcom become the most common CGM integration on the market with projects evolving between Animas, Tandem, and Omnipod. We were all interested to hear more about… Why?

Medtronic’s answer was interesting and brought up points I had never considered before. Medtronic’s President, Hooman Hakami, discussed with the group Medtronic’s belief that they, as a company, can learn more, better, and faster if they can control their technology without the limitations that come along with shared, but separately owned technologies. Some of you may remember when Carelink for the Mac was finally released. And (in Canada, at least) it was relevant for a mere days before Apple released an updated operating system, rendering the Carelink-Mac system useless for anyone who had updated their operating system. Or you may have noticed that both the Animas Vibe (Canada) and the Tandem Slim G4 (US) integrate with what is now old and outdated Dexcom technologies, thanks to the release of both the Dexcom G4 Platinum Share and the Dexcom G5 Mobile systems. Medtronic believes that it can innovate in smarter ways if it can control its own data and that it can advance it’s technology and algorithms if its data isn’t clouded by various therapies and variables. There was also discussion of quality control of generic products, specifically outside of the US and Canada. They were specifically talking about Luer-lock systems whose quality are not controlled in the same ways that the FDA and Health Canada control quality, leading to potentially faulty pieces entering into the system of care. Because Medtronic’s infusions sets are all developed in one (well, actually two) places, it’s easier to control the factors at play when it comes to insulin pump therapy.

All of that being said, we also learned that Medtronic IS learning from other industry leaders, specifically when it comes to developing new algorithms. The development of new algorithms will not come only from Medtronic insights, although we didn’t learn a lot more than that. Medtronic is also open to sharing its data to help improve patient experience and technological innovations, with the partnership with Glooko as an example.


Learning #5:

Senior Executive Team Priorities – Highlights

Finally, we had the chance to hear from each of the members of Medtronic’s Senior Executive Team about their own biggest priorities and thoughts on biggest opportunities for the company. Highlights, below.

Dr Francine Kaufman, Chief Medical Officer, Medtronic Diabetes
Opportunity: Artificial Pancreas

Fran spoke about the work that Medtronic has been putting into the development of the Artificial Pancreas as the biggest opportunity she sees Medtronic has for the future. She highlighted a brief history of the progression of Type 1 diabetes therapy and shared her excitement for what is to come in the near future.

Annette Brüls, President Global Diabetes Service & Solutions, Medtronic Diabetes
Opportunity: Infusion Sets, Adhesives

Annette has been with Medtronic Diabetes for 10 years and now finds herself in a new role heading up Type 1 diabetes services and patient solutions. She recognized that more than 95% of patient care comes from patients themselves and not from healthcare provider and spoke of the opportunities to better the tools that patients use, specifically around infusion sets and adhesives.

Alejandro Galindo, VP Intensive Insulin Management, Medtronic Diabetes
Opportunity: Adaptable platforms

Alejandro spoke about the opportunity to adapt platforms and products to simplify the lives of patents and families using insulin pump therapy. We even heard a hint about the simplicity of pre-filled insulin pump cartridges – remember the Disetronic pumps, anyone?

Louis Dias, Chief Patient Officer, Medtronic Diabetes
Opportunity: Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

See above for more on Louis’ and his connection to vision care. We may have guessed his answers before asking, but the confirmation was good. Louis saw mass opportunity for Medtronic to focus on enabling better use (or use at all) for those with visual impairments.

Hiten Chawla, Senior Director, Non-intensive Diabetes Therapies, Medtronic Diabetes
Opportunity: Actionable Outcomes

We hadn’t mentioned this previously, but we had the chance to learn from Hiten about what Medtronic is doing in the Type 2 diabetes space. One of Hiten’s goals is to help make the use of insulin pump technology easier for the much larger population of insulin-using Type 2s. A key piece of making this possible is making outcomes, insights, and information actionable and easy to use.

Overall, we were grateful for the opportunity to learn more about what is on the horizon, to be involved in the diabetes advocacy initiatives in the Americas, and to represent (in part!) the Canadian Type 1 community at the Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum, 2016.

Read more about what our fellow advocates had to say about the event:

Test, Guess, and Go: 2016 Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum: Transforming Diabetes Care Together, by Laddie Lindahl

The Life of a Diabetic: My MedtronicDAF Recap: Better Access or Better Technology, by Chris Stocker

Kayla’s Life Notes: Diabetes Advocates Forum 2016, by Kayla Brown

DiabetesMine: #MedtronicDAF – Storify, by Amy Tendrich

MiDiabetesBlog: Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum 2016, by Marcelo González G.

Blog Diabeticotipo: En Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum 2016 se habla español, by Carolina Zárate

TuDiabetes: Diabetes Hands Foundation at the Medtronic Diabetes Advocacy Forum #DAF, by Mila Ferrer