Connected Insulin Pens: Benefits + How to Get Them
Connected insulin pens (CIP)—or smart insulin pens—are any reusable injector pens that connect with an app on your phone to help you manage your insulin dosing. Many smart insulin pen apps help people with diabetes calculate and track their insulin dosing and provide essential alerts, reminders, notifications and insights.
Beyond Type 2 sat down with Elba López, MEd, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, to discuss the benefits of connected insulin pens for people with type 2 diabetes and tips for talking about them with your diabetes care team.
BT2: Welcome, Elba! Thanks for taking time out of your day to share your insights with us. Before we dive into today’s topic, can you introduce yourself to our audience?
Elba: I am a certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES). I’m also board-certified in advanced diabetes management, which I’m so proud of! I’ve been a dietitian for 20 years. I’ve been using diabetes technology since 2016. It’s been really helpful to be updated on all the new features and options available for people with diabetes.
Thank you, Elba. For someone with type 2 diabetes who has never heard of CIP technology before, what is the first thing they should know about it?
The good thing about CIPs is—when adding the technology to your phone—is that it allows people with diabetes to have better management. Especially the option of being able to dose in a different way! It means (doing so) with more precision and information. It’s helping a lot!
What are some common CIP features?
CIPs have really cool features. It adds notifications so they don’t forget to administer insulin. It also has alerts for when glucose is trending up or down, so it’s a complex of different features. The goal is to help people with diabetes have better resources at the time of administering pre-meal, but also one of the options out there is helping them with basal insulin. Depending on the option, you can have both!
Do you or your patients have a favorite CIP feature?
I would say for most people that live with diabetes, having the sensor added to their treatment is one of the benefits. Most people with diabetes don’t like doing fingersticks, so it’s taking that part out of the process, and for me, I think having that calculation of dosing—that it’s not by guessing—it means that you have a specific setting that your doctor prescribed.
With CIP, it adds sensor value, precision and calculation. It is considering the pre-bolus insulin that’s already in your body—preventing stacking…which can have a high risk of hypoglycemia. Using the pen, sensor, calculation and all of the alarms and notifications that go together, helps people with diabetes management have more confidence. It’s a key part of it!
Absolutely—a boost of confidence and safety! Do you use all sorts of CIPs while working with people with type 2 diabetes?
It’s more common to have people use the connected insulin pen as part of their treatment, so that’s really good. We know technology’s been out there a long time. Sometimes it takes people with type 2 longer to be considered for it.
Either people ask for it, or the physician gave them the opportunity to try it. If a person has a cellphone, they will probably be able to use them. If they have simple (tech) skills, they will be able to use it.
Are connected insulin pens affordable and accessible to people with type 2 diabetes? Are they usually covered by insurance?
It’s really important for a person with type 2 diabetes or type 1, to talk to your doctor. All CIPs require a prescription. If you are interested, one first step should be to talk about it in your next appointment with your doctor: ‘I know about this new option. It could help me have better dosing.’ Due to social media and technology, patients are the ones asking for it. So just ask about it with your doctor!
For insurance, it usually depends on whether they are already using insulin. It also depends on the support of their doctor too. They will need to fill out some paperwork, do testing—it needs medical specifications. Doctors will need to support that need.
It will depend on your insurance whether there is coverage, but if you really want it, some of these companies have support programs or coupons…it could make it $35 instead of having all these payments. If insurance isn’t covering, look at the website of that company to see if they can help or have benefits.
Such a great tip! Thank you. Why might someone seek out connected insulin pens?
It could be the CDCES, nurse or doctor recommending it—if they are noticing the person isn’t having good success with treatment…like forgetting to dose or could be different things related to the process of administering insulin…notifications will help. If the person has fears of lows or highs, this could also be a reason. A reason could be for a reduction of hypoglycemia.
They will probably see a lot of benefits after (getting CIP technology): better lab results, less variability in their glucose values, better diabetes management and better health. It could be either of those two cases, but if they are using insulin, they will probably benefit in one or more ways if they’re considering starting this type of technology.
Do people with diabetes usually already have experience with multiple daily injections (MDI) before starting CIP?
Yes. It could be a person not feeling comfortable with multiple daily injections. The (insulin) pens came for a specific reason—that it’s easier than having a syringe and a vial. If people have vision problems, pens are easier to use. The numbers are easier to put in. The dosing is easier—there are less steps.
It’s a good option for people on MDI, but it’s also an addition for people already using insulin pens. Reusable pens and regular pens—that’s only a cap that you add to it–-adding another part to their treatment, another feature, is good for most people using insulin.
Are there any other barriers, aside from insurance, that people with diabetes face in accessing CIP?
Sometimes people with type 2 think they can’t do it. As an educator, I always try to say, ‘Give it a chance. We can take it step by step.’ When we gave them education and practiced hands-on training and helped them, they say: ‘It’s not so difficult. I feel more relaxed now.’
They could say: ‘I’m too old,’ or ‘I’m not tech-savvy.’ They may just need to rethink it and give it a try and give it a chance. That’s why diabetes educators, physicians and nurses have their part in the process.
It could be the doctor, but I think it’s changing and most physicians want them to have access to technology. I think in the last two to three years, there was a change in the scene, giving more chances to people with diabetes. I think it could be a little of both!
That’s a great reminder that people with diabetes need a good support system to feel empowered to try new technology.
And I want to mention it’s not only helpful for people who live with diabetes, but it’s also peace of mind—better day-to-day—for the relative. It could be family members, it could be loved ones, it could be people around the person with diabetes. So it’s not only a benefit for the patient but the people around. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
What should someone with type 2 diabetes do if they’re interested in trying CIP? What’s the first step they should take?
The doctor can have specific details about which they think is better…but take a look at the options! Be able to see the differences. It could be which one your insurance covers. But if insurance doesn’t cover it, talk about your options with the doctor, your insurance, your relatives.
That could help you have a good selection. It’s probably something you will be using for at least a year. Having a good selection is key.
Any final thoughts?
There are a few CIP in the process of approval. We have two or three right now but in a couple of years, it could be five or six options! I always try to think of a positive thing about the process. Things could be better. Things will be better soon…things are moving that could help you manage in a different way, a better way. Try to be positive and keep moving on! It’s adding options to your treatment.
Editor’s note: Content related to connected insulin pens (CIP) is supported by Lilly, an active partner of Beyond Type 2 at the time of publication. Beyond Type 2 maintains full editorial control.