Two and a half weeks ago I surprised myself. I was standing in the pool dodging grandchildren with noodles, inner tubes, and water cannons. Out of nowhere I began to envision the possibility that I might choose to stay with the Animas Vibe when I select my next insulin pump in late 2016. You’re probably thinking “Where in the heck did that come from?” Part 1 of this series was highly critical of the Vibe as a pump/CGM system. Part 2 detailed my frustrations with the klutzy hardware and software integration of the Dexcom G4 into the pump. So how in the world did I get to the point that not only do I not hate the Vibe, I am relatively happy with it.
I’ll start with a little history. In late 2012 I left Medtronic for Animas because I wanted upgrade access to the first pump to be released in the USA with a Dexcom integration. I had read a lot about the convoluted menus of the Animas Ping but figured that I would get used to them. Very quickly I figured out that I had greatly underestimated how much I would hate these menus. Over a year later I was still grouchy with my pump decision and frustrated with the constant scrolling, the need to populate each recommended bolus from zero, and the lack of a Back button.
One day a couple months ago it dawned on me that I had become so adept at scrolling and button-pushing on the Ping that I didn’t hate it anymore. I still wondered what the Animas designers had been smoking when they designed the software system…. But I didn’t fight it anymore.
When I received the Vibe in mid-February, it didn’t take long for me to form negative opinions on the CGM integration into the device. At the same time the insulin-delivery functions of the pump were mostly fine and I daily appreciated the jump-to-bolus feature. In mid-March I quit using the Vibe as my CGM and went back to the Dexcom G4 receiver. This simplified my interactions with the Vibe and my satisfaction with the device increased quite a bit. Very importantly, it eliminated the nagging BG calibration alert. No more beeping after every bolus containing a BG number! I no longer had the frustration of the slow-refreshing graphs and I could mostly stay out of the no-man’s-land CGM menu. I began to concentrate on what I liked about the pump rather than my dislikes. At this point I was content that the Vibe was my pump until late 2016.
Let’s go back to the swimming pool. When you have diabetes, going swimming can entail a bunch of complex, usually no-win decisions. Should I risk wearing my pump until I jump in the water and what if I forget to take it off? Should I take some of my basal ahead of time? How long can I go without my pump and how much basal did I miss? What if someone knocks my pump off the table or steals it out of my tote bag? Using the Vibe allowed me to just keep using the pump in the water and not worry about diabetes issues. I could wear my swimsuit for several hours and be as relaxed as everyone else. (Although the Ping was also waterproof, I didn’t spend as much time in the pool as I do now and anticipate doing in future years.)
So all of a sudden I was standing in the pool and thinking that not only was I content with the Vibe now, I could see selecting it for my next pump in late 2016. Do I think it is the best pump ever? Absolutely not. But the menus are adequate, the pump is sturdy, and I really like the fact that it is waterproof. Although I might not choose to use my CGM very often with the Vibe, it is a nice back-up option for times when I don’t want to carry the Dexcom receiver. (This point will be moot once the Dex G5 is released because a receiver won’t be required and it won’t be compatible with the Vibe.)
Would I sign a contract now for the Vibe in 2016? No. But because I will be a few months shy of Medicare when I make my next pump decision, the Omnipod and Snap will be off the table unless Medicare coverage changes. It is unlikely that I will leave Dexcom for the Medtronic CGM, so that essentially takes the newer Medtronic pumps out of contention. (At the same time I was super impressed when a got a chance to see the Medtronic 640G at the UnConference in March.) Accu-Chek is not a good fit for me and I refuse to use a tubed pump that requires a remote controller. So it will be the Animas Vibe versus Tandem (and maybe Medtronic?). Let the battles begin!
One thing that I have not talked much about in this post is the decision to leave the Ping to upgrade to the Vibe. Many Animas pumpers (or parents of pumpers) rely on the meter remote of the Ping and the lack of one becomes a deal breaker for the Vibe. I hated the remote and it was relegated to a dark closet several years ago. In my book everything about the Vibe is equal to or better than the Ping.
At the bottom of the post, I have attached a link to a sheet that I received from Animas highlighting the differences between the Vibe and the Ping. A lot of the changes relate to the addition of the CGM functions. The biggie for me is the one-button bolus population. I also like the ability to see my IOB with one button push. There are other menu changes that aren’t important to me and I still goof up with some of the new navigation arrows in the Setup, Status, and History menus. I have no interest in the Food list which is now in the pump, but others might like that feature.
In summary, I am mostly happy with the Vibe. For me it is a sturdy, reliable, waterproof pump that is not overly aggravating when I don’t activate the CGM functions. At the same time I believe that Animas missed the opportunity to design and release a pump which could have hit a home run in the diabetes tech world. I have no idea if there are new pumps in the pipeline at Animas, but I hope so. As we see feature-rich pumps such as the Medtronic 640G and offerings from Tandem, Assante, and Omnipod hit the market, it is my opinion that the Vibe longterm will have a shrinking share of the insulin pump market.
Click this link to see a PDF scan of the Animas Vibe Features Guide In comparison to the OneTouch Ping insulin pump: Animas Vibe_Ping