Users of Animas insulin pumps, rejoice! Today Animas becomes the 6th major diabetes device manufacturer to sign on to allow its customers access to Tidepool’s new open source software platform for diabetes data.
This means Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Solutions, parent company of Animas, has agreed to make Animas pump data available on the Tidepool platform. This of course also applies to their combo devices, the Animas Ping (that connects with a OneTouch meter) and the newer Animas Vibe (that connects with the Dexcom G4 continuous glucose monitor).
Tidepool's new platform is not yet available to the public, as it's still in beta-testing mode. But in the coming months, we should have access to all of it -- including Animas pump data, thanks to this new development.
It's exciting to see yet another insulin pump maker going straight to the cloud, committing to an open system that will allow users to combine their pump data with CGM data and other records, and view and share that data in any app they choose.
This is a huge win for patient empowerment and patient choice! And it speaks to the incredible dedication of Tidepool CEO Howard Look and his team to improve the lives of people with diabetes by creating better, more flexible tools – eliminating vendor lock-in and helping us find improved ways to make use of our data. Look was recently honored as one of nine individuals to receive the White House Champions of Change.
Other diabetes device companies that have signed on to Tidepool’s vision of creating an open platform to support “an ecosystem of diabetes applications” built by various developers include:
- Asante (makers of the now defunct Snap pump, but who set the stage for supporting non-profit Tidepool)
- Dexcom, makers of the popular CGM
- Tandem Diabetes Care, makers of the t:slim and t:Flex pumps
- Insulet Corp., makers of the tubeless OmniPod pump
- Abbott Diabetes, makers of a number of glucose meter models
J&J LifeScan and Bayer also make their blood glucose meter data protocols openly available, so non-profit Tidepool is working with those devices as well.
The two leading D-device companies most noticeably absent from this list are: insulin pump market leader and CGM maker Medtronic, and Roche Diabetes Care with their Accu-Chek pumps and meters.
Both of those companies are "doing their own thing" in this area: In June, Medtronic announced its plan for the Minimed Connect to allow data-sharing with the Glooko solution, that connects with a wide range of D-devices; Roche also introduced its so-called Accu-Chek Connect this year, though that proprietary system is the least open of all.
Kudos to Animas for making the move, which they say has been in the works for a while, even before Asante closed up shop, leaving many data-driven insulin pumpers to turn to Animas.
John Wilson, Animas’ new VP of Insulin Delivery who joined the company’s diabetes division less than 5 months ago, says, “We’ve been hearing from our customers that what they wanted was access to pump data and choice in tools as to who gets to see the data and how they can use it.”
He met Look and saw Tidepool’s platform for the first time at ADA in Boston last month. “The architecture was so intuitive and user friendly… I immediately decided to finalize the agreement,” he says.
A Better Data Mousetrap
Interestingly, when we asked Wilson what most Animas pumpers are doing now for data tracking (i.e. what would they be switching from?), he didn’t even mention Animas’ proprietary EzManagaer software. Instead, he said most are using technology in physicians’ offices, like DiaSend.
“The opportunity to integrate with Tidepool further expands customer choices,” he added. “Patients have rights to their data and the ability to manage it. We want to be a part of that.”
Well, amen to that, as we say in the #WeAreNotWaiting world.
Asked about the role of D-Parents (of type 1 kids) in pushing for better data monitoring solutions, Look says, “Parents are an are important part of how we’re building this – in the way we design apps and the messaging around them. They’re among the most engaged and interested customers, which is natural. But we also have adult T1s in mind.”
Cautious on Timeline
When exactly will Animas pumpers gain access to Tidepool’s new open platform and its Blip app for viewing data? Look isn’t giving any specific dates, because he doesn’t want to overpromise or miss-set expectations, but he does say it will be “measured in a small number of months, not years.”
“Animas has given us the device data protocol, and we’re working on making it fit with the Tidepool platform,” Look says.
“We’re a tiny little team (of seven people), peddling as fast as we can. As a non-profit, we’ve received generous support from JRDF and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and now we’re working hard on delivering the Tidepool platform, the universal uploader (that will 'suck in' data from various devices) and Blip – and then we’ll do whatever we can to foster a growing diabetes ecosystem, allowing other developers in to build all kinds of new tools. Right now for us, it’s not about adding new functionality, but getting the back-end systems in place.”
Tidepool has also applied for Helmsley’s Diabetes Data Innovation Initiative, announced June 1, which will provide up to $5 million in funding over the next two years to selected groups creating “innovative solutions that enable the use of data to ease the burden of type 1 diabetes (T1D) for those living with the disease, their caregivers and healthcare providers.” We’re crossing our fingers for Tidepool!
Tech Progress / Tech Support
Look explains that the uploader and Blip app are currently in private beta with 120 users, and there are pilot studies going on at UCSF and several Jaeb Center study sites (the research network also supported by Helmsley). Tidepool is actively iterating on the app design based on user feedback, and is working on scalability and maturity of the platform.
“We don’t want to prematurely open it up to the world and then not be able to support it properly,” Look says. They are building out a support organization, something akin to a virtual call center, that would have the ability to easily “hand-off” issues to the device vendors they work with.
In other words, if a Tidepool user telephones for assistance and it turns out the issue is with the Animas pump, the technician should be able to easily transfer the caller to an Animas help line, and vice-versa.
Look tells us Tidepool has already hired their first “customer success lead” (fancy name for a tech support expert) a few months ago, and has begun building a ticketing system and knowledge base.
When it comes to technology evolution on Animas’ side, Wilson simply says, “We have next-generation systems in development. Everyone is looking after closed-loop solutions, and we are interested in that as well.”
Doctors vs. Patients
The UCSF study includes not only patients, but healthcare providers testing Tidepool, and the organization has submitted a grant application to JDRF for provider-facing functionality, we’re told.
That set off a few alarms for us, remembering conventional diabetes software that used to offer completely different tools and views for provider vs. patient. The provider version was often launched first, in the mindset that patients wouldn’t be equipped to handle it on their own.
But Look tells us that Tidepool aims to offer the same view, and same tools for both groups. “We’re focused on a wonderful experience for patients -- and for providers also.”
While they do not intend to make separate software, he says it is possible that some time in future they would provide advanced analytics for researchers, or add specific features that providers request. For example, they might build a “Quick Summary Report” that patients could easily print out or send to their doctors for use during office visits (similar to what Glooko does).
“An engaged patient should be able to use the same tools a provider has access to,” Look says emphatically.
“Intimacy in the Diabetes Space”
When ready, how will the Tidepool offering be communicated to Animas pumpers? Wilson says: “It’s our intent to use multiple vehicles to get the message out – in our product packaging, through our customer service department, via social media, etc.”
We also wondered how exactly Animas heard the call of their customers for more choices and open data solutions, to which Wilson replied:
“One of the things I enjoy is the intimacy in this space. There’s no other space like diabetes care where we hear from patients directly through social media, and through the venues we attend, like the CWD Friends for Life conference – which is an amazing opportunity to interact with the end-users of our product.” Nice!
Of course, J&J Animas also relies on the primary market research they commission, just like any other pharma company.
“Aligning with Animas is really exciting for us,” Look says. “We’re thrilled that a leader of the insulin delivery business at J&J understands how important it is for patients to have choice!”