The big annual get-together of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) took place in "the Big Easy" a.k.a. New Orleans, this past week -- the organization’s 42nd conference that brought together roughly 2,900 educators and a total of 4,500 diabetes-insiders.
We were on hand covering the action, and there was a lot of live-tweeting going on via the #AADE15 hashtag.
Of course, we're always fascinated to see what CDEs (certified diabetes educators) are being taught during the sessions at this annual event, where they gather necessary CME (continuing medical education) credits for their profession. We'll bring you coverage of that real soon here at the 'Mine.
But we want to start with our report on the buzzing Exhibit Hall at this event, where vendors vie for the critical attention of educators, who are so often the ones directly recommending products to patients.
The Hall seemed smaller to us than in years past, but AADE brass claims the number of exhibitors was “about the same” as in 2014. My own quick count of the booths this year was 150, down about a quarter from last year’s show that had 200 booths and was also significantly smaller than in the preceding years. If you're curious, here's the offiical exhibitor list from AADE.
AstraZeneca and Lilly took up the two biggest chunks of floor space, with J&J, Medtronic, Sanofi, Tandem, BD, Bayer, and Arkray on site as well. Interestingly, both Roche and Abbott were also in the house with large booths, after passing up the big American Diabetes Association meeting in Boston earlier this year.
Surprisingly, ReliOn (the Walmart “house brand” of diabetes supplies that is the lifeblood of those without insurance coverage or the under-insured) had a booth rivaling the size of the big players.
There wasn’t much in the way of anything new and exciting from the big pharma players, but there were a handful of exhibitors that did stand out.
Telehealth Education Kudos for Livongo
Remember the nifty touchscreen meter by Livongo Health that we told you about in September 2014? This is the one that not only has a built-in pedometer and is connected to a “smart cloud” to store data, but also sends feedback on your results and keeps you in direct contact with a care coach or the physician or CDE of your choice.
Well, leading into the AADE meeting, Livongo announced that it had acheived a first -- a special accreditation from the AADE for its online/telehealth diabetes education program, a novelty because all the other AADE-accredited programs have been based at hospitals and healthcare facilities since the accreditation program was created in 2009.
Basically, this confirms that Livongo’s technology-based virtual education program is “high quality” and follows the lastest National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support. Livongo doesn’t yet receive Medicare reimbursement, but this accreditation opens the door for that, as Medicare looks for this kind of endorsement when deciding what products and services to reimburse. Hopefully, this can set the stage for other device-based education programs to follow suit!
New & Improved iHealth App
Don’t get confused by the “i” at the front of this app, as we aren’t talking Apple here. No, this exhibitor was California-based iHealth Labs, the startup that created the sleek Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System (or the BG5 as it was known when we reviewed it back in 2013). The company was showcasing that meter on the trade show floor, but they also previewed their next-gen iHealth Gluco-Smart free app for smartphones -- including a new tool for social support to help us PWDs stay on track and share with others, and a new food and exercise logging feature. These updates are slated for release later in 2015, we’re told.
Wilford Brimley Graces AADE!
Some may know his acting prowess from The Waltons and movies like Cocoon, but to those of us in the D-Community, Mr. Wilford Brimley is the original face of diabetes -- the guy on those cheesy TV commercials who famously pronounced it DIABEETUS before encouraging us to buy mail-order supplies from Medicare-friendly Liberty Medical.
We saw some of our DOC friends at the conference posing for selfies with Wilford, who in pictures was wearing his trademark cowboy hat and suspenders and was maneuvering around the conference center in his mobile scooter.
If you follow the headlines, you know that Liberty is no more and since last Halloween Wilford – a type 2 D-peep himself since 1979 – is now the new spokesperson for Binson's Medical Supplies based in the Metro Detroit area of Michigan. That's what brought him to this AADE conference as a guest of Binson's. They've already started making new Binson's commercials together, and plan to expand regionally and maybe even nationally... and yes, Wilford maintains his D-pronunciation in this latest TV ad. ;)
You might think that Sanofi would be making a huge splash to tout its very new inhaled insulin Afrezza, which just hit the market early this year and hasn't yet been introduced to the CDE crowd in a forum like this. But there wasn't much to inhale about Afrezza on the trade show floor. They did have a product video display with a big headline that read, "Really. It's inhaled?", but that was about it.
We also saw some Afrezza users (like D-peep Eric Fenar, or @Peakabull on Twitter) chatting up the new inhaled insulin around the conference, and there was a "Product Theater" session in which a rep talked up the clinical benefits of this new drug.
But in the grand scheme you might have forgotten Sanofi was even in the house. Just walking by the booth, you could easily have thought Afrezza was an afterthought or a product the company didn't care much to promote to educators. Instead, everything Sanofi had seemed to be branded for its new once-daily basal insulin Toujeo that was just recently OK'd by the FDA and hit the market in April. (Photo montage courtesy of Eric Fenar, as posted on Twitter).
Buzzy Pain Blocker
Just as was the case back in 2011, there was a lot of buzz at the Buzzy booth this year. The Buzzy device is a physiologic pain blocker that uses both cold and vibration to help people who suffer injection pain. It was designed by Dr. Amy Baxter, a pediatric ER doctor and procedural seditionist, who told me she hadn’t exhibited for a few years but that she was seeing “amazing traffic” through her booth this year, better than ever, and found that the attendees were “hungry for knowledge.” She also praised the CDE’s “devotion” to their patients and described them as the best clinicians she’d ever met in terms of the quality, detailed questions they asked her about her product, its testing, and its development. Good to know.
Food in the House
Several smaller booths were hawking food products -- old players like FIFTY 50 that makes sugar-free foods and donates 50% of its profits to diabetes research, to companies you don’t normally associate with diabetes cuisine, like Barilla Pasta.
Other chow booths included The Peanut Institute, Campbell’s Soup, Dannon, ConAgra, and the California Walnut Board & Commission, among others. At opposite culinary extremes, Atkins was there, just around the corner from Bimbo Bakeries (which now also makes gluten-free products, btw). And since protocol dictates that you brush your teeth after eating, Colgate toothpaste was also onsite giving away TSA-friendly samples while the Gideons was giving out travel bibles (WTF?). So you could brush your teeth after eating all the food samples and seek forgiveness for any dietary sins, I suppose.
And now... DRUMROLL PLEASE... it’s time for my annual trade show awards:
The Most Bizarre Booth Award goes to….
Abbott, who at their big yellow booth featured a “human biology sculpture” by artist Brendan Jamison that was a New Orleans skyline line laid out in the shape of a human being. It was made from 47,530 sugar cubes.
How many carbs would that be? By my calculations, just about 109,319. If I ate the whole thing in one sitting I’d need 7,288 units of insulin to cover it.
The Most Thoughtful Booth Award goes to…
Lilly Diabetes, for a personal locking safe recharging station that let you lock up your phone and wander while it recharged. Their "booth bunnies" weren’t bad, either. Oh, and Med-T had the best lattés. Yum.
The Most Screwed-Up Demo Award goes to…
Roche Diabetes Care! The company generated some big booth traffic and long lines to their product demo theater for their new Accu-Chek Connect system, which automatically transfers blood glucose data wirelessly from the meter to an iOS or Android mobile device to the cloud (see our May coverage on that). The system was FDA approved earlier in the year and this was really the first big HCP event where they had a chance to show it off, aside from the ADA conference in June.
The reps tried to convince me how spectacular it is, too. But there was this little problem while trying to show me how effortlessly their new Bluetooth meter moves data to a mobile device, and then to the web… I took a picture of the auto-send… not sending. Actually, it never did while I was standing there waiting. They had to get out another meter. It was a riot watching the two ladies standing there and squirm while I'm saying, "Well, this takes a rather long time, doesn't it?"
Sorry the pic was kinda blurry. I had to snap it quickly before the rep destroyed the evidence.
And to be fair: Internet connection on these crowded trade show floors is always spotty. Perhaps they shoulda known...
The Earliest Lineup Award goes to…
The media group dLife, which had several book signing sessions at their booth for diabetes authors. No, I was not one of the authors selected. The booth crew told me that people started lining up for these autographs several hours before the signings even began -- one for AADE Educator of the Year Susan Weiner and her new diabetes Diabetes 365 Book (she’s also the author of the award-winning Diabetes Organizer), and one for well-known CDE Janis Roszler for her new book Approaches to Behavior: Changing the Dynamic Between Patients and Professionals in Diabetes Education.
The dLife booth actually ran out of materials and the staff manning the booth had to call frantically for more books to be overnighted out. Good for them!
dLife booth at #AADE15, as posted on Twitter
dLife was also debuting their "new look" with new logo and other branding materials. For an expert opinion on this, we consulted our good friend, D-Dad Tom Karlya, who previously worked as executive producer at dLife TV. He says this about the brand refresh: "As I approached the booth, I could not help but notice the new graphics for dLife. Slicker, sharper, and more appealing as its brightness captures your attention immediately. It's as if there are online connections to the cloud within the stillness of the letters. Well done."
Hmm, to our team the new logo mainly looks darker blue and sharper, with cleaner lines.
The Peer Pressure Award goes to…
AADE itself! I noticed for the first time that AADE placed a “Wish you were here” board outside the Exhibit Hall where participants were encouraged to write in companies they'd like to see represented at this event. To me, this reflected the organization’s worry about the shrinking trade show and conference attendance overall. I’m sure the idea was that the marketing people can now go to potential vendors for next year and say, “Look, our members say they missed you!”
That said, I didn’t think much of the list of MIAs:
The only vendor I missed with a passion was Asante Solutions, makers of the now-defunct Snap insulin pump. But they are gone and out of businesses, so adding their name to the board would have been pointless.
Not that I didn’t think about it.
In the end, that’s what made it onto our radar at this year’s AADE.
What do you think of these vendors, and if you were able to be at this D-educator conference, did anything in particular catch your eye on the Expo floor?
(Stay tuned for more AADE15 coverage in the coming days, including a look at the science and research side of the conference and how social media use was a big theme.)