Guide: Using a Smart Insulin Pen to Manage Type 2 Diabetes


 2021-12-17

If you use insulin to manage your type 2 diabetes, you may already know how convenient insulin pens can be. Carrying a single, self-contained pen is so much easier than the traditional approach using syringes and insulin vials. 

While there are a variety of options for taking insulin these days, injections with a pen are probably the most common today.

Since insulin pens look like fountain pens, it is easier to be discreet when taking insulin in public. These days some insulin pens have gotten “smarter.”  Here, we’ll take a look at the benefits of using this modern method of injecting insulin.

What makes a “smart” insulin pen?

Smart insulin pens include digital technology that adds the ability to, at the very least, monitor and record your insulin use automatically. These “smarts” can also make it easier to calculate doses, share your data and make sure your insulin is safe. 

Smart insulin pens use some combination of digital technology and connect to the cloud through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. By adding this self-contained digital computer along with sensors and internet connectivity, insulin pens have become a revolutionary tool for managing insulin use. 

Which smart insulin pens are available and what’s on the way?

There are several smart insulin pens by several different diabetes tech companies available to people with type 2 diabetes and another in development by Lilly Diabetes.

Current Smart Insulin Pens Available: 

Smart Insulin Pens in Development: 

  • Lilly Diabetes’ Tempo Pen – a modified version of Lilly’s existing prefilled, disposable insulin pen, to which the Tempo Smart Button attaches. A 2021 press release stated the Tempo Pen is approved in several global markets but has yet to be approved in the United States.

How can a smart insulin pen help you?

A smart insulin pen can lighten the mental and physical load of managing insulin use. At the very least it can automatically track your insulin use. The more advanced smart insulin pens can also calculate your insulin doses for you. All smart insulin pens also have an app for tracking and entering information. And most recently, smart insulin pen systems have been developed to connect an insulin pen with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), creating an open-loop system. 

The technology in today’s smart insulin pen options can include some or all of the following:

  • Track and record when you take insulin and how much.
  • Track and record how much insulin has been taken so far during the day.
  • Estimate and track how much insulin you have on board (useful for avoiding insulin stacking).
  • Calculate your insulin dose based on some combination of carb counts, current blood glucose (BG) readings, preset instructions from your healthcare provider and insulin doses already logged for the day.
  • Set alarms to remind you to take your insulin at specific times of the day. 
  • Save all your data, either in the smart pen’s memory or to the cloud
  • Share your data with your healthcare provider and anyone else you choose. 
  • Compile graphs and reports that show your insulin use and blood glucose levels over time.

Should you switch to a smart insulin pen system?

Switching to a smart insulin pen is a major decision that you will need to discuss with your healthcare provider. Consider the following in preparing to discuss the possibility with your provider. 

Compatibility

One of the first things to consider is whether the smart insulin pen system you are considering will work with the brand of insulin that you currently use. None of the currently available smart insulin pens is approved for use with all the insulins available. 

Compatibility is a consideration beyond the insulin you are using. Find out if the app is compatible with your smartphone. Also, if you are considering a smart insulin pen system that integrates with a CGM, you will want to know if the smart insulin pen system works with the CGM you are currently using.

Patient Education 

You will need to learn how to use the smart insulin pen system. And because the system might depend on practices you’re not familiar with, like carb counting, you may need to learn about those also. Consider if you are willing and able to take the time necessary to learn everything needed to make full use of a smart insulin pen. 

Also ask your healthcare provider how, when and where you will get trained. If your provider is already using the smart insulin pen system with other patients they are more likely to have access to training and ongoing support in place. 

Provider Commitment and Support 

Is your healthcare provider committed to including smart insulin pens in your type 2 diabetes care? Will your provider actively monitor the information shared with them? For example, will they follow up with you in response to any alarms that go off? How comfortable are they configuring the smart insulin pen system? How often will they want to revisit your preset parameters and make adjustments? 

Cost 

Of course, the cost is always a consideration. How much will using a smart insulin pen system cost you out-of-pocket? Will your health insurance cover any of the costs? How does the cost of a smart insulin pen system compare with what you are currently using? 

Using a smart insulin pen will likely lighten the mental load of managing your diabetes with insulin. But, as with most new technologies, to experience the benefits requires a commitment of time, energy, and money. 


This content on diabetes management was made possible with support from Lilly Diabetes. Beyond Type 2 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.

WRITTEN BY Corinna Cornejo, POSTED 12/17/21, UPDATED 06/21/22

Corinna Cornejo is a content writer and patient advocate living with type 2 diabetes. Because she had many of the classic risk factors (overweight and sedentary, close family members with diabetes, Latina and middle-aged) she wasn't surprised by her diabetes diagnosis. Since then she's focused much of her writing on helping people become better informed about their health and healthcare and understanding that living with diabetes doesn't mean giving up who you are.