This episode welcomes Linda Parks, the National Director of Clinical Education at Tandem Diabetes. Tandem is the maker of the t:slim insulin pump, one of the most innovative products to hit the diabetes marketplace in years. Linda is responsible for leading the team of diabetes educators that help new users learn how to use the insulin pump. She has over a decade of experience in diabetes education, so we are excited to speak with her and learn more about Tandem Diabetes.
TANDEM DIABETES NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION
DWB: Welcome everyone. Today we are excited to have Linda Parks in our program. Linda is the National Director of Clinical Education at Tandem Diabetes. Tandem Diabetes is the maker of the T:Slim insulin pump, as most people know, and Linda has had a stellar career in diabetes education for over a decade, working for companies such as TheraSense, Abbott Diabetes Care and now Tandem Diabetes. Linda, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. We are very pleased to welcome you to our program.
GUEST: Thank you, Erich. It’s really great to be here and I’m excited to talk to you about Tandem Diabetes Care and the T:Slim insulin pump.
DWB: Great. Well, first off, Linda, could you please just tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to work with Tandem Diabetes.
GUEST: Okay. Well, I’m a nurse and a certified diabetes educator, and have been for a long, long time. Actually, back in the 80’s, when I first started in diabetes, it was just the beginning of self monitoring of blood glucose, and it was really an exciting time for us to see people with diabetes who were able to really start to chart their own course with diabetes care. Back in the 80’s there were actually several pumps on the market then, as well.
These pumps are very crude compared to today’s pumps, and really only had two speeds, the basal and the bolus, and those were the only settings. So, I started watching Tandem Diabetes Care early on, when they were just developing the T:Slim. And, well, I had never seen an insulin pump that had a touch screen, so it just made so much sense to me, so I wanted to be part of that.
DWB: Great. So, in your role at Tandem Diabetes, what exactly is a National Director of Clinical Education? What do you do on a daily basis?
INSULIN PUMP EDUCATION
GUEST: Well, one of the things I love about start-up companies is you get to do a little bit of everything. So, basically my focus is the education and training that’s needed for someone who’s starting with an insulin pump. We have a team of diabetes educators that are nationwide, that are providing healthcare professionals, people who are living with diabetes or have purchased the T:Slim with getting the training and the education on the product. The amazing thing is how easy the T:Slim is to learn and use. And so the hard thing is getting to everybody who has been interested in it. We’ve had quite a really wonderful response.
DWB: Interesting. So how is-, when the CDEs go out to meet with the people who purchase the pump, how do you approach that experience of teaching them how to use it? Do you think that your approach is different than other pump companies?
GUEST: Well, really, just opening up the box is a great experience. We had one of our customers who videotaped the whole experience and put it on YouTube. And she was so excited she could hardly contain herself. So, I think really even just the first time looking at the pump people can see how different it is to interact with it. And that really is because of the touch screen and the intuitive user interface we have with it.
So, no longer do you need those really long detailed menu-driven instructions. You just start tapping on the touch screen and the T:Slim tells you where to go. So, it really has been very interesting and very rewarding to watch people. The light bulbs just go off and the “a-ha” is like, “Oh, I can do this.” We’ve had really a great response
TANDEM DIABETES HISTORY
DWB: That’s great. It is quite a unique product and it’s interesting to hear that people react that way. One of the questions I was curious about was that Tandem Diabetes is a start-up company. Are you aware why the founders of Tandem chose to develop a insulin pump versus any other type of medical device? Is there any story behind that?
GUEST: I think when the company first started in the mid 2000’s they had a new idea for pumping medication. And I think early on there were people who had experience with diabetes and passion around insulin pumps. And so we took that new idea for how to pump a fluid and really bought into insulin pump therapy. One of the really good things is as soon as they identified the goal of developing an insulin pump – instead of going back into their room and devising a new insulin pump, why don’t we talk to people who are living with diabetes and the healthcare professionals who treat them, to find out what they need in an insulin pump.
So, we began our quest and talked to about 4,000 people along the way. We designed and then went out and asked more questions and then designed again. And I think really having that interim evaluative step along the way has really made the T:Slim what it is. Which is a very intuitive product that people like to use and find it very easy to use.
T:SLIM INSULIN PUMP BENEFITS
DWB: Interesting. The next group of questions is a little bit more involved. We’ve already talked a little bit about what makes the T:Slim special. If you could talk about not only some of the special features of the pump, but also talk in terms of how these features benefit the user.
GUEST: Okay. When we first started talking to people living with diabetes years ago, one of the things they said is they wanted a slimmer pump. They need to wear this device 24/7, they want to be able to fit it with their clothes and fit it into their lives. So one of the things when we looked at designing it was how to make it slimmer. And, two things that make for a fat insulin pump, so to speak, is the round battery and the round cartridge. So our engineers really started to work on how can we make those slimmer so we can make the whole profile of the pump slimmer.
Well, we looked just to cell phones and other consumer devices and saw the rechargeable battery, so really those small internal batteries are very small, and so now the T:Slim has a rechargeable battery, so you just really need to plug it into the wall when you want to charge it up. So, that has been great. No more do you have to go to the local 7-11 to pick up batteries, you just have a USB cord. It’s a microUSB connection, so it is similar to all the other consumer devices you have at home, and you just plug it into the wall. You also can be connected and delivering insulin while you’re charging, so you don’t have to interrupt your therapy.
Then the second thing was the cartridge. Instead of the round syringe-like reservoir or cartridge we went with a flatter profile, and we used a new technology called micro-delivery technology. And really this separates the T:Slim from all the other cartridges on the market. Even though the cartridge is very small, it holds up to 300 units, which is great for people who take more insulin a day. This micro-delivery technology separates the user from that 300 units.
So it’s really grabbing a little bit of insulin and then delivering to the patient from that smaller amount of insulin. It’s been very great. Then the last thing is the touch screen? And so with the touch screen interface, you know, we really have been able to change how people interact with the pump.
T:CONNECT SOFTWARE UPDATE
DWB: Exactly. One thing that people have mentioned on our website is that they are looking for the software. The software looks great but it’s currently pending FDA approval. What’s the status with that? When do you think that will make it to the market?
GUEST: Our software is called T:Connect, and we’re very excited about that and certainly, you know, pumps are so much more usable when you can really look at all the information in a graphical form. We are right now at the FDA approval process, so we’ve been there for a little bit, so we’re hoping for clearance soon.
DWB: Very well. A lot of people are waiting as well, and are excited about it, so hopefully the FDA gets their act together soon.
GUEST: Yeah, and I think one thing that’s great is that the download is very fast with this program again, because we have USB connectivity, and the information downloads in seconds, instead of minutes, which really is great at a busy healthcare provider’s office or when you’re trying to print off your reports before you rush to the doctor’s.
DWB: Is there a primary market for the T:Slim? Is it mainly for children, only for adults, for both? How do you position it?
GUEST: So, our labeling is for 12 old and older. So that is what the pump is indicated for. And that’s the population that we tested in our FDA clinical trials. Actually we had people from 12 to 73 in our clinical trials and they all did great with the T:Slim, they really liked it. I think there is that stereotype that maybe touch screens are for the younger population, but we found of all ages really, really like the intuitive nature and the ease of the touch screen.
TANDEM DIABETES AND DEXCOM CGM PARTNERSHIP
DWB: Exactly. Let’s move on if we could to a couple of new developments that seem to be coming down the pike. Tandem recently announced a partnership with Dexcom to use its G4 platinum continuous glucose monitor. Could you tell us how patients will be able to use the G4 in conjunction with the T:Slim pump? And will there be any integrated solution?
GUEST: Well, first it’s great to work with such a great company like Dexcom. And the best thing is they’re right down the street, so literally we can just jump in our cars and have a meeting. They are very close. I think it makes a lot of sense to have CGM and your pump technology in one device because you need them both. So we are working very hard, fast and furious, on an integrated product, to have the CGM on a nice touch screen interface. We’re looking to bring that out and we’re working hard on it.
DWB: Do you have a specific time frame or it’s, you know, it could be a year, it could be six months, it could be…?
GUEST: I can’t talk about timelines at this time, but just rest assured we’re working fast and furious to bring it to people with diabetes, because this is going to be a really wonderful object for them.
TANDEM DIABETES AND JUVENENILE DIABETES RESEARCH FOUNDATION PARTNERSHIP
DWB: Fair enough. There was another exciting partnership that you just announced this month, and that is the partnership with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to develop the world’s first dual infusion pump. What is a dual infusion pump and why could it be a great step forward for type 1 diabetes management?
GUEST: Well, first of all, we know that the pancreas secretes more hormones that affect your blood glucose than just insulin, so it really does make sense that when you’re looking at an artificial pancreas, that the system would be able to deliver more than one hormone. JDRF again, is an amazing organization who has really worked hard to catapult technology farther and farther along in diabetes care, and really have been responsible for many of the new advances. So Tandem Diabetes Care is really excited to be working with JDRF on this technology.
TANDEM DIABETES CUSTOMER SERVICE
DWB: Okay. We’re getting near the end. The number one complaint that we have on our website in regards to insulin pumps is that the customer service from the pump companies are just awful. We have not gotten any feedback on your company yet, but how is the customer service department doing at Tandem Diabetes? What kind of issues are you having, if any issues? Or, have people really been pretty satisfied with it?
GUEST: Well, we’ve received great feedback on our customer service and I think if you look at the blogs or even Facebook, some of the people posting will even mention our customer service representatives by name. They’re so happy with the service. And I really think here at Tandem Diabetes Care, I mean, we are a customer service company that just happens to manufacture and sell pumps. It really is about the service we give to our customers. So we have a team that’s dedicated to bringing excellent customer service, 24/7, to people who purchase our products. And these people are well versed in diabetes care and in insulin pumps and just on the phones waiting to be called.
DWB: Well, I will say that we’ve had dozens if not hundreds of complaints regarding insulin pump companies and customer service. Tandem has had the T:Slim out for months now and I have not seen one single complaint come through our commenting section. So, clearly you’re doing something right.
GUEST: Well, we’re working hard on it.
DWB: So what’s next for Tandem Diabetes? Any other-, besides the ones we talked about, are there any new products coming down the line or any new development you want to talk about or share?
GUEST: That’s another great thing about working for a start-up company, and one like Tandem Diabetes Care, is because we’re not a one-trick pony. We have several projects in line. I can probably only mention a few of them and some of them we’ve already talked about; so certainly our integrated product with Dexcom and then also the work that we’re doing with JDRF on our dual chamber pump.
We also understand that people with diabetes-, some people with diabetes need to infuse quite a bit of insulin a day. Whether during pregnancy or if they have type 2 diabetes, they really require a fair amount of insulin a day. So we’re working on a project that would bring a 500-unit cartridge to market with our T:Slim. And then, of course, working really hard to bring the T-Connect out to people who have already purchased our pump. Those are just a couple of things that keep us busy.
DWB: Well, it sounds like you are very busy. Linda, one more thing. If the people want to learn more about the T:Slim or Tandem Diabetes, can you give-, what’s your website for people listening and what’s the best way to learn more?
GUEST: Okay. They can visit us at our website and that’s www.tandemdiabetes.com or call our customer service line and that’s 877-801-6901 or like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. And tag #TandemDiabetes.
DWB: Well, thank you very much again for sticking with us today, Linda. Certainly we’re excited about the work you do and we look forward to hearing about more great innovations with Tandem Diabetes in the future.
GUEST: Thank you, Erich, it’s been a pleasure.