This summer, I attended two diabetes conferences that were quite different in scope and style. I started with the American Diabetes Association’s 2013 Scientific Sessions in Chicago. This 5 day event had 18,000 participants and stretched across a massive conference center. It is centered around presentations on the newest research and studies spanning every aspect of diabetes care. One of my favorite sessions was led by Martha Funnell of the University of Michigan. As an R.N. and C.D.E., she talked about patient-centered care. She spoke about how providers “have been trained that our job is to fix people or change them, but it’s not.” Instead, she believes the right approach is to provide self-management education and support. I couldn’t agree more.
There were also more technical presentations about the accuracy of CGMs as well as latest information on artificial pancreas trials, including B.U. & MGH’s bionic pancreas. I also enjoyed a session on evolving business models and innovation within the industry. James Dudl, Diabetes Lead for Kaiser Permanente, and John Brooks III, CEO of Joslin, talked about ways that they expect the current treatment models to evolve.
As great as these sessions were, most people seem to go to the ADA conference for the networking and discussions that happen outside the events. All sides of the diabetes industry are present. Walking around the exhibition hall, you are quickly reminded that the biggest companies in the space are the pharmaceuticals catering to type 2 patients. Their booths are the largest and most centrally located. As much as I am focused on data, the device manufacturers and software companies take up significantly less space. Plus, due to the 72% drop in test strip reimbursement announced earlier this year by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, blood glucose meter companies Abbott and Bayer were both no-shows. Rumors are that several companies are looking to get out of the blood testing business as the bottom drops out of their business model.
At the end of the summer, I also attended Insulindependence’s conference on diabetes and exercise. The event was refreshingly different from the ADA conference. As a patient, it was terrific to be able to connect with so many like-minded diabetics. The conference happened over three days and the vast majority of the few hundred attendees were patients (almost all T1Ds). The sessions focused on real-world issues that we face in our daily lives like balancing our nutrition, exercise and devices. For me, it was really inspiring to meet so many hardcore athletes. Everyone seemed to have just finished an IronMan, a marathon, or were training for one.
A few other sessions were also insightful. Tandem Diabetes, maker of the new t:slim insulin pump, gave us a tour of their facility in San Diego. It’s refreshing to see that their company makes design and user experience such a high priority. Another interesting session was by Gary Scheiner, a T1D, CDE and founder of Integrated Diabetes Services. He outlined the ways his company looks for insights from CGM data.
And finally, Dr. Steve Russell’s presentation on “A Bionic Pancreas in the Wild” was fascinating. It’s quite interesting to see how their work is progressing with real-world trials. Their bihormonal closed loop system uses both insulin and glucagon to control blood sugars. Check out Kelly Close’s report on her participation in a clinical trial for great perspective on the system.