As doctors are forced to cancel face-to-face appointments due to the COVID-19 outbreak, people are still starting on new diabetes devices, like continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and insulin pumps.
But how will they get the setup help and training they need?
Not surprisingly, physicians and diabetes device trainers are turning to video conferencing, phone calls, and other creative methods for supporting new patients.
Traditionally, to start on a new insulin pump, Medicare required in-person office visits, but the federal rules have now been relaxed on allowing telemedicine due to COVID-19.
While the device companies are pretty much unanimous in stating that supply chains aren’t interrupted, some speed bumps have surfaced from third-party distributors in terms of shipment delays.
Some people with diabetes (PWDs) have also been sharing frustrations online about long wait times and delayed responses from both device-makers and health insurers (whose process is slow and cumbersome even in the best of times).
“We are still seeing new pump starts,” says Danielle Karsten, director of product marketing at Tandem Diabetes Care, which makes the t: slim pump and new connected Control-IQ automated insulin delivery system. “We’re still ramping up capacity for shipping products and supplies since our medical devices are considered ‘essential business.’”
Tandem is not alone. Here’s what we’re being told by various diabetes device companies about how they’re handling new and existing customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roche Diabetes: Extended warranty, mySugr app
Recognizing that PWDs approaching the end of their insulin pump warranties often evaluate device choices and ask for guidance from their healthcare professionals, the company wanted to allow for more time in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Extending warranties means they’ll continue providing needed repairs and customer service if a device isn’t working as it should.
In the United States, where Roche discontinued selling new insulin pumps in 2017 and handed off customer service to Medtronic Diabetes, the company tells DiabetesMine it’s providing free home delivery of its Accu-Chek glucose monitoring products via their online store.
Roche is also offering customers the mySugr Pro version of its mobile app for free from both iOS and Google Play stores.
Tandem Diabetes: Remote trainings and upgrades
Michigan regional sales manager Dan Boyle says, “As you probably know, the situation is constantly changing. We are doing many upgrade trainings for patients via FaceTime, Microsoft teams, etc. Every HCP/medical office has different protocols for training… many are holding off on new-to-pump trainings, but not all. It really depends on the patient’s ability to understand.”
Tandem’s corporate office shared a blog post updating customers, noting that “our business is continuing to fully operate” even while their teams are forced to work remotely.
“Our manufacturing and warehouse facilities continue to operate as normal, as healthcare operations are deemed critical by the state, so that we can provide products and supplies to Tandem customers around the world,” Boyle confirms.
Tandem also touts its “remote upgrades” program as a benefit during these difficult times.
Medtronic Diabetes: Online training and new supply shop
This means all face-to-face interactions with healthcare providers and patients were shifted to remote options as much as possible.
“As part of the healthcare community, serving patients and healthcare providers require us to remain fully operational to produce and deliver our products and services to those who need them,” Kim Larson, U.S. national clinical director for Medtronic Diabetes, tells DiabetesMine.
Their sales and clinical teams are supporting patients via video and phone calls with the help of physicians’ offices, we’re told. Specific examples include:
- All patient trainings, one-on-one and group sessions, have been moved to a virtual format to include product onboarding, virtual demos, and troubleshooting.
- They’re partnering with clinics and doctors’ offices to identify telehealth needs, i.e., when staff time is minimal and most valuable. The aim is to eliminate “fluff” and focus on what’s truly necessary for these settings: ensuring paperwork and prescriptions are handled efficiently and don’t disrupt a patient’s care, offering doctors’ offices how-to advice for making the most of virtual interactions, and having patients upload their pump/CGM data in advance.
- Assisting with emergency supplies and offering financial assistance for patients in need.
Medtronic Diabetes is also posting COVID-19 updates online, where they duly note: “While we are doing our best to minimize disruption, you may experience longer than normal wait times due to the increased volume of calls that we are experiencing.”
Clinical Director Larson says, “We’ve received several emails, texts, and calls from our customers and providers thanking our team for this level of support during this challenging time and helping them ‘manage the chaos and clinic flow through the disruption’ in these challenging times.”
Insulet: Omnipod WebEx and financial aid
Insulet, Massachusetts-based makers of the Omnipod tubeless insulin pump, is also following suit.
Insulet tells us they’ve actually created and implemented a video- teleconferencing platform specifically for web-based training of Omnipod users across the world.
Those who meet financial eligibility criteria can get up to a 6-month supply of products (60 Pods) free of charge. Details about that program are available by calling 800-591-3455. This program runs through Dec. 31, 2020.
There’s no doubt that all things healthcare-related bring new challenges during this unprecedented time. The point is that diabetes device manufacturers are “firing on all cylinders” to keep their pipelines moving and support customers.
Many PWDs have been sharing their experiences on social media about working to get onboarded with new diabetes tech — which seem to differ starkly by patient needs.
Coffin says he had never been on an insulin pump before. Since he was also dealing with severe stomach complications from diabetes for the past year, he needed his doctor’s approval and orders for basal rate and pump settings before he could start on Control-IQ.
On the other hand, Kelly Lynn Davis, a type 1 living in Northern California, says she was able to get her new Tandem system up and running by just reading the user manual online and watching YouTube videos for how-to instructions.
She had previously used a Medtronic MiniMed insulin pump for many years. She also works as an ER nurse, so Davis says she’s “experienced enough to manage without a training session.”
The takeaway seems to be that it’s possible to get started on new diabetes technology at this time, but as a patient you’ll have to be persistent.
This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a leading consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community that joined ishonest Media in 2015. The Diabetes Mine team is made up of informed patient advocates who are also trained journalists. We focus on providing content that informs and inspires people affected by diabetes.
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