Saturday 4 December 2010

Omnipod Vs Medtronic

Looking at the title as a non-pumping diabetic, you would be forgiven for thinking I am going to blog about the next big cinema blockbuster (well, maybe more like minimal-budget-straight-to-DVD horror flick), but in fact this post is about my recent attempt to look into the Omnipod insulin pump.

In November, I received my letter from my specialist to advise me that I have been successful in passing my insulin pump trial and will be continuing with this method of treatment.

I'm not sure there is a word in the English language to describe the feeling - but elated, ecstatic, thrilled and thankful are some of the words that come close. All the hard work has paid off and Maggie (my pump) and I will continue to be partners in crime for the indefinite future, something I [and all my nerve endings] are very pleased about.

Appart from the obvious benefits of completing the pump trial (improved BGs, flexibility, reduced complications, reduction in needle jabs et. cetera et. cetera) the other benefit of getting to this point and finally passing the trial is that I now have a little choice about the kind of pump I can have. I have already blogged enthusiastically about the first day of the trial, when I had attended the hospital to plug into 'The Matrix' for the first time, and saw the Medtronic Paradigm VEO sitting in front of me. I had been aware that my hospital in the past had always used the Accu Chek Spirit, which looks a little like this:

Now generally, most insulin pumps look roughly the same, but I really wasn't taken with this one. I had seen it and held it once in person and for some reason felt it was somewhat 'clunky'. Perhaps this was because I was still unsure about pumps in general and this was the first I had seen up close. But also because I had also done a lot of research into different pumps and had always come back to one; The Medtronic Paradigm VEO. I had looked over it again and again, and was completely sold on the fact that one day, when CGM was more affordable, I would have a pump which was ready and waiting to allow me to join the party. Unfortunately I didn't have the most smooth of rides when I did try the CGM, but it remains an extremely useful tool in managing diabetes, and I stand by my claim that it is something every diabetic should have the option of using - let's hope the NHS catch up! Thankfully, I have found the pump itself thoroughly wonderful, apart from the odd kinked cannula frustration, which frankly seem to be part and parcel of using any Teflon cannula as opposed to steel ones. But the pump itself has been like a best friend to me.

But perhaps the most important thing about my pump, is the people and service behind it. The aftercare, if you will. From the moment I joined the Medtronic clan, I have known nothing but complete support and care from the company and the people behind it. I have had a number of mishaps with the pump, including one which led me to phone Medtronic in America on a Sunday afternoon, while shaken and a little concerned. The customer service I received that day was second to none, so much so that I took the time to send an email to Medtronic telling them just how impressed and grateful I was for their compassion and outstanding service. Not only did I accidentally hang up on the customer service chappy on that Sunday afternoon, thanks to the mild panic going on in my head, but after getting straight back through to another person, it turned out that the original customer service agent had been trying to call me back (from America no less) for the 20 minutes I was on the phone to his replacement.

Medtronic have also sent me skins and a remote control at my request (despite the fact that the only equipment I actually need, is already right here on my hip - these are just for play), and have also sent me a reservoir after I lost my head and forgot to get some spares from my DSN.

I could not sing their praises more highly, and suspect I always will.

But despite the fact that I have felt very safe in the hands of the folk at Medtronic, a new pump recently arrived on our shores, and as I have now passed my trial and have the option to consider another pump before making a choice which will remain with me for the next three years, I wanted to check this pump out.

It is the worlds first tubing free insulin pump and goes by the name of the Omnipod.

Rather than having a 43 inch tube which leads from the pump to the cannula, everything you need to deliver the insulin is contained within that little white 'pod' (on the right hand side). The PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager, on the left) is used to wirelessly send commands to the pod, which then delivers the insulin as and when you ask it to.

This is the diabetic equivalent of Topshop giving away all their most expensive and stylish lines, with a cherry on top. It couldn't be more exciting.

So in August, when I knew my pump trial result was looking good and that the option of a new pump may be on the horizon, I contacted my DSN and asked about perhaps trialling the Omnipod now that the option was there. After hearing that she would consider it providing the cost was not drastically different, I contacted Omnipod. Almost immediately I heard back from their customer service team, to advise that my details had been passed to their rep, and that they would contact me soon. A good sign.

Sure enough, about 2 or 3 days later, I heard back from their rep, who advised that I could have a trial which would be done with my DSN involved.

All was looking good. However, since this time, I have sent off about 4 or 5 unanswered emails, and have been left very concerned about the level of customer service I have received. To this day I have never once been let down by Medtronic, in fact quite the opposite, they have time and time again surpassed my expectations, and have proven themselves invaluable in making the transition onto an insulin pump, which in all honesty wasn't the easiest thing I have ever done and took a lot of adjusting.

The problem is, due to the fact that it is now December, and my rep appears to be very unconcerned that a potential customer (sale) is ready and waiting to join their club, I have been left very concerned about what aftercare Omnipod can offer. What if the pump stops working? What if their cannulas kink? What if it is 3am, I have ketones and am panicking again? Where will my lifeline be then?

I now have to reach the decision of which pump I want by the 25th January 2011, which will be one whole year since I joined the 'pumping crew'.

As a result, I have had to reach the decision that I do not have enough confidence in Omnipod to make that switch. Tubes or no tubes, what underpins any insulin pump lifestyle, is the option of having help at the end of a phone should anything go wrong. And when it comes to it, the insulin pump is nothing more than a computer. It can succeed just as often as a computer and sadly can also fail, just as any computer.

The fact that Medtronic are helpful, contactable 24 hours a day, knowledgeable and apparently prepared to go to many lengths for the benefit of the customer is infinitely more important than how the pump looks, whether or not it has tubing and whether or not it is fashionable.

I would LOVE to have a pump with no tubing, but not at the cost of everything else which makes the pump a success.

I truly hope that people in other parts of the country have had more success with them, and that perhaps my experience was more to do with my local rep, than with the general customer service. For children and unsure adults, the thought of no tubing and what appears to be a small, streamlined and 'sexy' pump may be just what they need to make that swap - something which will save their life, literally. Unfortunately, I remain unconvinced. I wrote to Omnipod advising them that I was sad about the fact I had to reach the decision not to change to their system due to my concerns about their service. Well guess what, I still haven't had a reply - even to that.

I had a good feeling about Medtronic when I first looked into the pump, and on the day I found out I was getting one ... And when I received my pump skins through the post ... And when I got my remote control ... And on the day all my cannulas were kinking ... And when I sent my email to thank them for their service.

For now at least, my faith (and funding!) remains with Medtronic. I don't have anything against Omnipod per se, and perhaps when my warranty on Maggie is up (generally pump users change to a new pump whenever the warranty has expired, to ensure if anything goes wrong they will still have excellent after care), I will try contacting them again, just to see what/if anything has changed. But for now, I remain confident in the knowledge that I am in good hands with Medtronic and that swapping to a 'sexier' pump, could have been the beginning of a very long four years.

Maggie the Medtronic, it's you and me from here on baby.


  1. I have just received an omnipod 2 weeks ago. My first pod I had a small problem with on Easter Sunday(scary). I called omnipods customer service line at 9:05pmEST and got a great guy named Jim he was great we switched pods he sent me a brand new pod which I received the next day plus a self postage pad label to return the used pod for their inspection. I love my pod my sugars are doing much much better. I compare the corded PDMs to a corded phone as to a cordless or cell phone. Not many people in the States use corded phones any longer. I can assure you the customer service team is there 24/7 even on Holidays and extremely supportive. God bless you and Maggie. May you both have a healthful happy year. Insulin pumps are a woundous diabetic tool a cure would even be better!

  2. Hi there. Thank you so much for posting and for giving your own experiences. I have not across many people personally who use the pods so this is really good to hear. I understand things are improving over here, although I did hear of someone else who had a similar experience to myself. 18 months down the line, I hope that many more people are sharing your good experiences. I personally can't wait for the cordless pumps to take off here, so watch this space.

    Hope you have all your confidence back in pumping since Easter, take care.


  3. Thank you Anna for this post, and Mr/Ms anonymous. This has been so helpful. My Minimed broke last night (second Medtronic pump failure) and turns out the original warranty (which means funding too) has expired. My DSN has assured me the funding will not be a problem and I now have a choice of which pump I want, which as you know is the equivalent of being told you can have a trolley dash in the Apple store :-)
    I must say that when I heard today that I could have an Omnipod I almost jumped for joy in the middle of the street! But as you mention Anna, there are so many things to weigh up. Pump failure is a heart stoppingly worrying thing to go through (and pain in the a*** and unfortunately seems to happen more often than it should. . . . it's certainly a tough decision!
    I have a few days to decide so thanks again for your fabulous blog. I am going to be stuck here all evening now! Very glad I found it. Makes it all a bit less lonely :-)

    1. Hi Isabellkinga! Thanks for your post, what a nightmare that your Minimed keeps dying! I am glad to hear your funding will be smooth sailing and can imagine you are keen to try a different pump bearing in mind yours has broken twice. I do hear good things about Omnipod since I originally posted this, and wonder if they just had a bumpy ride when they arrived here in the UK. It may be worth contacting them for a demo pod (if you haven't already) and seeing what you think of it and how good the service is. There are lots of questions you can ask, like how quickly will they replace if broken? Do they have a 24 hour help line? How many pumps do they have problems reported with? How big the team is they have in the UK?

      Also, I have since this post met the teams from Animas and Accu Chek, and both have substantial teams here, excellent customer service and great pumps (Combo has a remote control meaning pump never has to be retrieved from clothing and Animas now has a CGM compatible one that is also waterproof).

      Good luck and let me know how you get on


  4. Hello all! Please bare with me, i am very new at all of this. My daughter (12 months old) was just diagnosed with T1D about 2 1/2 months ago. Her specialist are wanting us to look into which pump we'd like her to have. right now I am in between the Medtronic Pump and the Omnipod. I'd really love to hear any personal experiences with these two. maybe from someone who has had both? which would be best for my active angel? thank you for your time! God bless you all!

    1. Hi there, I've been trying for six weeks to get some issues with posting comments sorted and have finally managed. Did you get the advice you needed for your daughter? I didn't have the best experience with Omnipod, but that was when they first arrived here. Since then I have heard excellent things. But from a purely experience-driven point of view, Medtronic have superb customer service, and it is the customer service which helps in a crisis.

      I know a couple of people on Pods, and a couple on Medtronic. If you like I could put you in touch with them to see if it helps you decide?

      I hope you and your family are coping with the diagnosis OK, what a horrible thing to darken your door!

    2. Hi there! My son was just diagnosed at 12 months as well. Did you get your daughter on something you like? We are searching for a pump for my baby right now and not sure which to chose.

    3. Hi Alisha, I should say that it was me picking the pump as my daughter doesn't have D. But since this post I have heard many excellent things about omnipod. I emailed them recently and still haven't heard back, but it wasn't to the customer services team. I know many people very happy with it.

      I think the big thing for children is how they get on with the tubing. If they fiddle with it and risk pulling it out, then perhaps something like the Omnipod or CellNovo is the way to go. If they are old enough to explain the tubing too and understand they can't pull it out, then I have been very happy with big companies like Medtronic and my current pump the Animas Vibe. Animas however are unfortunately closing in coming years, so it is worth discussing options with your current team. It is waterproof and very robust, so even if you are using it temporarily, it may be worth taking a look.

      I hope you find the right pump and please feel free to keep in touch ( about how you get on.

      Best wishes