Choosing an insulin pump is a very personal experience. Anyone who tells you otherwise is basically lying to you. To pump or not to pump, to go with tubing or no tubing, it is all a matter of personal preference.
When we first began looking for an insulin pump for my son it was 2002 and he was 4 years old. The only requirement he had was that it could NOT be the blue pump. Everyone he saw seemed to have a blue insulin pump and he wanted to be different. As a parent, I knew that there were other things to consider. At first, however, I wasn’t quite sure what they were.
I read books like Pumping Insulin. I reached out to the parent email list on the Children with Diabetes website. Finally, I consulted with friends and began to compile my own list of features that our insulin pump had to have.
What was important to me in an insulin pump
It was important for this to be the most up-to-date insulin pump. I was paying for this pump out of my own pocket and would have it for the next four years. I wanted the best technology for my money.
My son was only four so it had to be able to deliver very small amounts of insulin. Because we were new to pumping, certain alerts were also going to make our journey a little easier.
I didn’t order the blue pump. I didn’t order from the rep who became a lifelong friend. The other rep whom I met for coffee and answered every question I had, also did not get our business. I felt horrible not purchasing from either of these amazing people but pumping is personal. I had to go with the pump that fit us. They understood.
I chose a brand new insulin pump. It had everything that we wanted in a pump. It had features that he would need in the coming four years and features that were perfect for our life at that time. This was an insulin pump that was ideal for our family.
Let me repeat that…it was ideal for our family. It was not ideal for everyone’s family. This was a pump that was not ideal for every person with diabetes. That is the thing with insulin pumps and with diabetes in general…everyone is different. Everyone’s
If you are looking at an insulin pump for the very first time, here are five things to consider…
1. Do you want t
ubing or not?
For some people, being attached to something 24/7 can be overwhelming. This might mean that an insulin pump is not for them. It may also mean that they might be better suited to a pump that has no tubing like the Omnipod. Other people find that having a pump at the end of their tubing allows them to know where their “pancreas” is at all times and gives them peace of mind.
2. Is a Continuous Glucose Monitor important to you?
There are some insulin pumps with CGMs built into them. This can be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it. It is great to not have to be concerned about carrying or dealing with another device but technology is changing so rapidly that it can be nice to have a stand-alone device that is more updated than the one integrated into your pump.
3. Does the insulin pump update itself?
As I said, for me it was vital to have to most up-to-date technology. My thinking was that if I was spending that kind of money, why did I want a Kia when I could get a Cadillac for the same price?
Insulin pumps are constantly changing. New models are being brought to the FDA and Health Canada on a regular basis for approval. Some people, like me, want the most advanced technology for their money. Other people are okay with
Currently, in the Canadian and US markets, there is only one insulin pump company that offers upgrades without having to purchase a new insulin pump. A Tandem insulin pump has the capability to remotely update its software without the need to purchase an entirely new device.
4. How much insulin do you need?
The reservoir or insulin cartridge is what will hold the insulin in your pump. Depending on your age and needs, size can make a huge difference.
Also, depending on your age and lifestyle, basal rates and bolus amounts are important. The basal rate is the amount of background insulin that your pump is delivering to you every hour. Each pump delivers that background insulin differently and has different maximum and minimum amounts.
To get a rough idea of how much background insulin you might need, look at the amount of long-acting insulin you are currently using and divide it by 24. This is a very rough guess and will change with an insulin pump but it will tell you if you need smaller or larger basal rates.
Bolus amounts are the amount of insulin that you will inject (or bolus) to cover your meals. If you are a big eater or you have a high carbohydrate to insulin ratio, you are going to want a pump that can handle that. If you are someone who is very sensitive to insulin, then small, precise bolus amounts will be very important to you.
5. What sort of alerts will you need?
Will you remember when to do an infusion set change? Do you need a reminder to let you know if you forgot to take insulin to cover a meal? Is it important to you to have an alert that lets you know if you are dropping low or spiking during the day?
These are just some of the alerts that are found on some of the insulin pumps currently on the North American market. When searching for an insulin pump, take a look at the alerts and see which ones you will use and which ones you can do without.
Make a list of your insulin pump wants and needs
Choosing an insulin pump can be overwhelming. Make a list of what you require in an insulin pump. Think about the five key things I mentioned above. Add your own features that you feel are important like screen size and temporary basal patterns.
Once you have your list (we have a great checklist of features here), contact your local insulin pump reps. Contact all of them, not just the one from the pump company that you know the most about or the one that you are leaning towards. Get to know them. Get a feel for how they treat you. Learn about their payment plans and customer service. Will they let you try out the pump?
Make sure that you choose the pump that is the right fit for you. You are the one who will have to deal with it 24/7 for the next 4-5 years, no one else.