“This one day is a small step - just the beginning” That is what Amanda Sheldon, Director of Public Relations, told us as we began our day Friday at the Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum. In some ways, it was just a small step. And in others, it was a big one.
Katie Szyman, President of the Diabetes Business Unit, told us that most of the Business Units (including their largest unit, Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management) connect mainly with physicians. The Diabetes Unit is different - it is more about connecting with patients, supporting us and listening to us. Learning more about our needs can help them decide what to focus product development on - which makes sense to me since I'm the one managing my disease 24/7 and using my pump throughout the day and night. Not only did the Medtronic Executives listen to what we had to say that day (and we had a lot to say), but Karrie Hawbaker, Public Relations Manager, was also reporting questions from Twitter via the #MedtronicDAF hashtag.
Although they were not able to speak about any new product development that has not yet gotten FDA approval, we did get a sneak peak at some things that have gotten the green light. You probably already have heard that CareLink is now Mac compatible. We also previewed MyMedtronic Connect, a new mobile phone app and we exchanged feedback on that. While some said it wouldn’t be useful to them, I think I would use it to check the on-line store and my order status, and to set reminders for myself to order supplies. I’d probably go to the app first when looking for Airport Security tips and to review the Travel Checklist. I also had no idea about the Travel Loner Program until I saw it in the app. I believe the point was brought up both in the room and via Twitter that it would be nice to have our CareLink info - especially the reports and charts - on the app. Unfortunately, FDA approval is needed before that can happen.
I hate to play favorites, but I think my favorite speaker was Lane Desborough, Product Strategist. He is a Mechanical Engineer who joined the Medtronic team after his son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My husband is also a Mechanical Engineer, and I can attest that engineers seem to have brains that never quit. Pete is always looking at things and trying to figure out how they work and how they can be made better. I got the impression that Lane thinks like that too, and I'm thrilled to know the Product Strategist is a Mechanical Engineer. Lane showed us his representation of a Person With Diabetes and their “Batman Belt”, or all of the supplies we need to carry around.
Lane spoke about working to cut down the bulk. He spoke about working to relieve some of the burden of diabetes management through better equipment. Todd Rubin, Director of CGM joined the conversation and they spoke about SAFETY being most important and designing for the “abnormal” circumstances rather than normal ones. They spoke about the balance of wanting a product to have EVERY new feature patients wish for and not taking FOREVER to get a new product out. If there are eight great new improvements ready, but the ninth improvement on the wish list is significantly holding things up, the tough choice is sometimes made to drop that ninth improvement and move it to the next generation. Safety and timeliness are factors I had never considered when I whine about why my pump can't do this or that or be thin and small like an iPod.
Overall I think the day was a big success. I know I learned a lot and I could tell the Medtronic staff did too. Sure, a few things were discussed that I didn’t, and probably won’t ever, agree with - like the discussion of why someone might not want a pump and how to educate them. I’m always the first to speak up about how I feared going on a pump, how listening to others in the D-OC who had those fears too but tried the pump anyway gave me the courage to do it, and how it has been the best management decision for me. But the most important words are FOR ME. We are all different, and pumping is a very personal decision. Others may do much better on MDIs than they could on a pump, and I respect that. Also, Scott pointed out the at times finances can prohibit a pump more than personal choice.
I do hope this was truly “just the beginning” of communication between Medtronic and the on-line patient community. I do hope other companies make strides to increase communication as well. It may seem like one small step, but it goes miles towards bringing us all together for the good of the patient as well as the company.
If you’d like to see more pictures from the Forum you can view the Medtronic Flickr Set. The set also include pictures taken before the Sensor Manufacturing Tour, which I’ll write about in another post.