Diabetes Technology Guide
Whether it be a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), insulin pump, insulin pen, blood glucose (blood sugar) monitor, or other diabetes technology, they’ve become an essential part of diabetes management.
These tools have helped millions with diabetes improve their blood glucose levels and may help prevent or delay long-term complications over time. But with so many options to choose from, at times it may seem overwhelming.
Before your next health care appointment, read our guide to prepare for the discussion with your health care providers about what diabetes device(s) may be best for you, your lifestyle, and medical history.
Types of Devices and What They Do
Check out the different types of diabetes devices and how they might benefit you:
Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs)
CGMs do what the name says, they continuously monitor your blood glucose (blood sugar) by providing real-time updates throughout the day and alert you when your levels become too high or too low. A tiny sensor, about a half-inch long, is inserted just below your skin, usually on your belly or arm. From there, an electrode measures your glucose levels within the tissue fluid rather than directly from your blood, almost entirely replacing the need for finger pricks—which is a huge relief for many.
Some varieties of CGMs connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone or laptop so you can easily analyze your blood glucose trends. This is reported to the user so they can see the trends past blood glucose, where they currently are, and show trends arrows to see what direction their blood glucose is headed. And, it can transmit these data—plus the alerts when your levels get too high or low—to other people in your life (health care provider, loved one, etc.) who will benefit from this information and can help you in case of an episode of hypo or hyperglycemia (low and high blood glucose).
An insulin pump, an external device that is attached to your body, works by mimicking the insulin release of a body similar to someone without diabetes. They can be programmed to release whichever insulin you usually use at the rate that’s determined best for you—whether that’s a steady, continuous release throughout the day or a surge release, such as in response to food.
You still have to monitor your blood glucose (blood sugar) while using an insulin pump, but it does minimize the need for insulin injections.
While setting up and attaching the pump can get some getting used to, the insulin pump can be a great alternative for people who need multiple injections on a daily basis.
Connected CGM and Insulin Pump
It’s the best of both worlds! Some CGM devices can now be incorporated with insulin pumps to adjust insulin delivery to decrease hypo and hyperglycemia as well as to increase time in range (the percent of time that your blood glucose levels are in your recommended target range). This connected system provides the continuous glucose checks of the CGM with the automatic insulin delivery of the pump. Though you will still need to administer insulin to match your carbohydrate intake.
Blood Glucose Meters
This device is considered to be one of the more standard diabetes devices. It’s a small, portable device with a screen that comes with test strips that are designed to use with the meter. You prick your finger with a lancet device, apply the small drop of blood to the test strip, and your blood glucose (blood sugar) reading is displayed in a matter of seconds on the display.
Some brands come with more bells and whistles that allow you to download data on a computer, in addition to other functions, while some are more basic but still get the job done.
Smart Insulin Pens
A smart insulin pen is the tech-savvy sibling to the insulin pen. Insulin pens allow you to dial in the correct dose of insulin, but smart insulin pens take it a step further by calculating your dose of insulin based on your blood glucose level and carbohydrate intake. The smart insulin pen will also help you determine correction doses, keep track of recent doses, and provide alerts when you need to administer more insulin.
They’re able to do this through sharing data via Bluetooth to an app you can download to your smartphone. It uses data from the last time you ate a meal, how much insulin you currently have in your body, blood glucose (blood sugar) history, and more to make these decisions.
Insurance Coverage of Diabetes Technology
Insurance coverage of each of these devices varies from company to company. Some questions they may ask to decide if the device warrants coverage are:
- How necessary is the device to your diabetes management?
- How much does it cost?
- What model of the device are you interested in?
- Has your doctor prescribed it?
How necessary is the device to your diabetes management?
While some technologies, like a blood glucose meter, are widely considered to be essential, others like CGMs are considered non-essential. You’ll will want to discuss the advantages of using a device in order to properly manage your diabetes with your health care provider. Also, keep in mind that the device may have certain qualifications by the insurer for coverage.
How much does it cost?
When browsing for products as a consumer, price is often a big factor in your decision making. And the same goes for your insurance company—they often only provide coverage for technology at certain price point. Do your homework to determine what devices are covered.
What model of the device are you interested in?
Let’s say your insurance provider approves the coverage of an insulin pump. You find one you really like that has lots of great features—but the company denies it because it is not on the list of approved devices by the company for coverage. So, while your provider may provide coverage for an insulin pump, they don’t necessarily provide coverage for every insulin pump.
Has your doctor prescribed it?
In order for your insurer to entertain the idea of providing coverage of diabetes device, your health care provider has to first give you a prescription for it.
How to Make the Decision
The decision for which type of diabetes technology is best for you should be made jointly with your health care and insurance providers.
You and your health care provider should consider a few things when deciding which device is best for you:
- Your medical history
- Your diabetes history
- Your lifestyle
- Your diabetes pain points (what you struggle with the most)
- What you want out of a device
Your insurance provider will be able to work with you to determine coverage, what is needed for approval, and what model of the device you are approved for.
Also, be sure to ask for an appointment with a diabetes care and education specialist—one with experience in diabetes technology—to be properly trained on how to use the device.
Keep in mind, the world of technology is ever changing in diabetes care, so stay up to date by asking questions of your health care team to help you take advantage of the best options for you and your diabetes.
This article brought to you by Medtronic, a proud supporter of the American Diabetes Association.