Most health boards in Scotland offer insulin pumps to some patients with Type 1 diabetes. This is a well established method of controlling the condition and helps people to reduce the number of hypoglycaemic episodes, which means that their blood sugar is so low that they require some form of medical assistance. The reduction in these episodes means that the long term risks associated with Type 1 diabetes such as, kidney, heart and eye problems are also reduced.
The insulin pump, a battery-operated device which can be used as an alternative to injecting insulin into the body with a pen, helps patients improve their diabetes control and gives them more flexibility. However, advances in technology are now allowing people with Type 1 diabetes to self manage their condition in a whole new way through their existing insulin pump.
As part of a joint collaboration involving the NHS Western Isles Diabetes, TEC (Technology Enabled Care) and eHealth teams, an exciting pilot programme has been running for the last six months. This programme combines wireless sensor technology with insulin pumps to facilitate Continuous Glocuse Monitoring (or CGM) to take place. The combination of these technologies is known as ‘sensor augmented insulin pump therapy’. Now, for the first time, a group of service users who already have an insulin pump have been given access to this treatment in the Western Isles- making this programme the only one of its kind in Scotland.
How does it work?
Continuous Glucose Monitoring uses a small discreet sensor that is attached to the skin with a tiny hair-like wire that measures the levels of sugar in the fluid beneath the skin. For some people with a compatible insulin pump the sensor can be linked via Bluetooth to the pump.
Pictured above: Continuous Glucose Monitoring sensor
This allows constant second-by-second monitoring of the person’s blood glucose level, which means that the person knows exactly what their blood glucose is doing at any time, without the need to prick their finger for blood in the traditional way.
The really clever bit is that the pump will automatically suspend insulin delivery or stop the pump completely if the sensor detects that the blood sugar reading is in a ‘danger zone’. These danger zones can result in the person feeling very unwell and can lead to a hospital admission.
After the results have been recorded, the service user can upload the data in their own home. These results can then be viewed on line by the Diabetes Specialist Nurse and any required changes to the insulin pump settings can be made remotely by the user.
Pictured above: The Mini Med 640G
Jane MacAulay, NHS Western Isles Diabetic Centre Lead Nurse, said, “The results so far have been extremely positive for both our patients and the Diabetes service, with an evaluation report expected to be available in September.
“Furthermore, to promote how this new technology has helped some of our existing patients manage their diabetes, we have created a short film. The film explores the lives of two local people living with Type 1 diabetes and is available to view via our NHS Western Isles Vimeo page at: https://vimeo.com/225977891