Chatting on a bus with a tour de force of diabetes bloggers travelling from Zurich airport to the Ypsomed headquarters in Burgdorf – as one finds themselves of a Friday morning – I heard a few murmurs about the Ypsopump. Being admittedly terrible at keeping up with diabetes tech news (if you read this blog on the regular you’ll likely have spotted that one by now…) it was all I could do at that point to join the dots from the name. A new insulin pump from Ypsomed then? Well, precisely. One that’s been five years in the making.
Welcome to the party, Jen.
What the hell was I doing on a bus heading to Ypsomed’s headquarters of a Friday? I’ll explain all in detail in another post, but in short I’ve recently become a part of Ypsomed’s mylife Diabetes Network, who as a collective have just spent three days in a rather idyllic Swiss setting sharing stories and experiences, and giving input and feedback to the company who distribute the Omnipod.
I had a chance over the weekend to hold and play with the finished Ypsopump, as well as to actually make part of the motor mechanism (don’t worry guys, I’ve been assured that one won’t be going to market). We also had a tour of the pump factory, and saw first hand how much incredible machinery and precision goes into making each and every component. Even for someone who has precisely zero engineering prowess, I was entirely fascinated. It also meant I got to channel my inner Victoria Wood, circa the Dinnerladies era:
It’s worth saying that overall, it felt incredible for a company to open its doors so openly and authentically to the product-making process. Certainly in healthcare generally it can feel like there is more than a minor barrier (and so often therefore a disconnect) between product and end user. In normal circumstances this is frustrating enough, but when you are dependent on that product to keep you living and breathing, the conversation becomes more than simply a novelty, but a necessity. To be able to offer feedback firsthand to the actual product manager around the Ypsopump, the Omnipod and everything and anything around life with type 1 in general felt entirely bizarre and at the same time so completely logical. There was no marketing spin, or even pressure to write anything. Sure, they flew me out there but it was as much for their benefit as it was mine.
So. Back to the Ypsopump.
What do we know about the Ypsopump so far?
– It’s due to be released by the end of the year across several European countries. The UK release date is currently estimated for the end of 2015, beginning of 2016 at the latest.
– At first glance let me tell you it is entirely beautiful – not out of place next to an iPhone. It’s sleek, shiny and feels wonderful in your hand. In fact, it doesn’t *really* look like an insulin pump at all.
– It’s HELLA LIGHT, at just 90g including battery, full cartridge and infusion set. It seems that bigger isn’t always better, then…
– The cartridges that accompany the pump come pre-filled. This is exciting to me as by far the most time-consuming and ‘faffy’ thing about the Omnipod is pulling my Novorapid from a vial with a syringe and filling a new pod, every three days. The rest of it is comparatively plain sailing but filling that bad boy up takes some time and attention, and isn’t possible to complete while running for a train, juggling a coffee, trying to talk on the phone… y’know, life. With a bit of practice, the Ypsopump will take just a few seconds to sort out.
– But does this mean only one type of insulin is compatible? There will also be an option to get empty cartridges, that you can fill yourself.
– The Ypsopump is touch screen. Touch bloody screen! The only touch screen pump on the European market. It is also swipe screen – although maybe not quite as fun as swiping right in Tindr, it certainly adopts tablet UX that has become inherent to our manual dexterity.
– The Ypsopump is allllll about simplicity. This is a nod to the type 2 market – where they are inevitably going to sell the most products across the globe. This is a market less comfortable with being on insulin; many will not take it out of the house, and the Ypsopump has clearly been developed with these users in mind. Discreet, sleek (dare I say it sexy?), you can bolus and go with a pump that could be mistaken for a phone and an infusion set that isn’t disimilar looking to a headphone cable. If you aren’t looking particularly closely that is. But hell, most of us barely look up from our phones long enough to pay attention to what anyone else around us is doing, right?
– For this reason, there is no text at all, anywhere, on the screen at any point. Only icons and numbers. Gasp. While this is entirely deliberate – the aim is to entice new and potentially nervous pump users with a device that’s easy to understand and thus easy to use, I have to admit it makes me a little hesitant. Simplicity is great, but at what sacrifice to data and choice? Hmm. That being said, it took me ridiculously little time to get used to the pump’s processes, and I’m a bit of an idiot.
– Similarly, as far as I understand it, there is no function to store insulin to carb ratios, or any other bolus calculations for that matter, although it will show last bolus amount, time etc. This feels like a slightly backwards step, as it means you have to work out the insulin dose yourself each time, as one would on injections. Most of us will do this anyway, but to have all the maths taken out of the… ahem… equation only to put it back into our heads feels a bit strange.
– That being said, there is temp basal, dual wave and square wave options and two basal programme options.
– The tubing rotates 360 degrees around the pump itself, hopefully making it super comfortable and flexible when trying to dose without having to unravel yourself from your device first… this I think will be particularly appealing for young, active children (and their parents!)
– There is no insulin on board indicator. I wasn’t thrilled at this as my bolusing has a tendency to blur in my head into one big, lifetime bolus and it’s good to be able to have this reminder to hand when you can’t even remember the day of the week.
– It will be possible to send more intricate data via bluetooth to an app and/or computer. This is an extra step I as a pump user already fail to complete but to be fair, that’s because my Omnipod’s meter tells me all I personally need to know – blood sugar averages over days, weeks and months being the main one. Having no data visible on the pump would likely in fact prompt me to make the effort and pull it off myself. This pump on all counts is designed to allow you to dose quickly, simply and discreetly.
As a side note, we also had some interesting discussions around remotes. Having only used a pump where the remote is everything (glucose meter included), I can safely say I absolutely love not having to uncover my pod to look at it or even think about it for three whole days once it’s in place. It stays under my clothes, out of the way, with only the occasional beep to alert me that it’s still alive and doing its thing. I know I’m in the minority – those that use a pump with tubing have certainly made me curious about other benefits a different pump may offer.
What I really took away from the weekend, and the feedback we were giving in regards to the Ypsopump, was a reinforced sense of just how personal everybody’s priorities are when it comes to their own condition and these amazing pieces of kit that are keeping us alive (cure aside perhaps!). We all have slightly different perspectives, viewpoints and bugbears about life with type 1, so it remains to be seen whether the Ypsopump can meet the needs and desires of the majority with a product that’s taken quite a deliberate sidestep from those already on the market. I have a feeling it will prove an entirely shrewd move from Yposmed to cater to the busy, image-conscious masses. I haven’t seen many medical devices as attractive as the Ypsopump and I think there will be a large proportion of the market eager to get their hands on it for this reason alone. Will I be one of them? Unlikely. I think this is a step too simple, even for me.