We at DiabetesMine were sorry to hear about the server outage that caused havoc for users of the Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring data-sharing capabilities over this past Thanksgiving weekend.
But we were also sorry to see the media frenzy around this, much of which implied that Dexcom’s negligence is putting children’s lives at risk. Say what?
As someone deeply entrenched in cutting-edge diabetes technologies and an early adopter of CGM myself, I see this “crisis” as more of a communications snafu than a medical emergency.
Too dependent on data streaming?
First off, let’s please remember that CGM is still a relatively new tool! Dexcom has brought us this ability to have accurate continuous glucose readings -- a privilege that we can all be grateful for -- while being mindful that cloud computing is not perfect and there WILL be gaps in data-sharing at times.
The Dexcom device continued to take readings during the outage, btw. It was the cloud-enabled beaming of results data to various apps that went down. I realize how upsetting it can be for a parent to suddenly lose the ability to see their T1D child’s readings, or for a patient (like me) who’s become dependent on a “looped” system to lose that connection, even for a few hours.
But as we noted during Dexcom’s first outage over New Year’s 2019, it’s important for all of us with diabetes to have a backup plan for when technology fails. It is not, unfortunately, our God-given right to have perfect CGM data-sharing service every moment of every day.
The business/communications imperative
What needs fixing more than anything in this case is the process by which customers are notified when service goes down – precisely because the service in question is medical, and considered life-critical by so many users.
Clearly, many parents of T1D children keep their smartphones by their bedsides these days, relying on the CGM Share function to keep their children safe.
Knowing this, companies like Dexcom simply MUST have better business processes in place to communicate and deal with gaps in service.
Many critics on social media asked why it took Dexcom so long to notify customers, and then only via a Facebook post – far too easily missed by many?
Going forward, we’d like to see a commitment to proactive crisis management that could include:
- Pledge to notify customers of any technical issues within a few hours
- Message posted within the app, and broadly on a variety of channels: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and email blast to customers
- Opt-in text messaging, where parents can sign up on behalf of a minor, giving consent to receive text messages any time the data-sharing service is interrupted for any reason
As a person living with a CGM sensor for almost 13 years now, I can honestly say it’s difficult not to become overly reliant on the technology. Incidents like this are a good reminder to be aware of how to handle my glucose tracking and insulin dosing in case of power outage.
Meanwhile, Dexcom and other CGM manufacturers need to be keenly aware of how absolutely mission-critical their product is to their customers. They need to be prepared to jump on a crisis – like it was their own child groaning in the next room!
Only then can they ethically promote the message that diabetes parents having been sharing amongst themselves for the past years: “Thank God for CGM -- you can finally sleep at night!”
Amy Tenderich is the Founder & Editor of DiabetesMine, a news and advocacy resource she started after her own diagnosis with type 1 diabetes in 2003. She has become a nationally known patient advocate, public speaker, researcher and consultant, who runs a series of influential DiabetesMine Innovation forums. When not working, she enjoys hiking, her three daughters, and the great outdoors in the San Francisco Bay Area.