An Innovative Pitch for Diabetes Control

Wearables are changing the game in how patients monitor and manage their diabetes.

Retired Major League Baseball pitcher Jason Johnson was the first player allowed to use an insulin pump on the field during a game.

It helped Johnson increase his time in range* (defined as the percentage of time people with diabetes spend between the glucose range of 70-180 mg/dL) so he could focus on the game without needing to check his blood sugar levels three to four times between innings.

Johnson is hardly alone. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing epidemics, with more than 100 million Americans living with the disease or pre-diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For those living with diabetes, finger pricks and insulin injections were pretty much the only options. Now wearables like the Medtronic MiniMed 670G system™ with SmartGuard™ technology are improving diabetes management protocols for individuals and giving them more control of insulin delivery and their lives.

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More than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Healthcare logistics has been a strategic business imperative for UPS for more than a decade, including best-in-class supply chain solutions to support diabetes care. The delivery of testing supplies, devices, continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and more to patients — wherever they may be — makes smart logistics a core element of the continuum of care.

UPS has a 1.4 million-square-foot healthcare campus in Louisville, Kentucky, where the company packs, labels and ships medical devices overnight to patients on demand.

Read the conversation below between Daniel Gagnon, Vice President of Healthcare and Life Sciences Strategy at UPS, and Johnson about his experience with the MiniMed 670G insulin pump therapy and how it changed his life.

Gagnon: What was it like being a professional athlete with type 1 diabetes?

Johnson: I always had to stay on top of my levels because of the adrenaline rushes I would get during games, and it wasn’t always easy.

Sometimes an inning can be as short as eight minutes, so when I was taking insulin shots, I would have to use that time to walk from the dugout to the clubhouse to take my medication. It didn’t leave me with much time to prepare for the next inning.

That said, I also saw my diabetes as a blessing in disguise sometimes. As hard as it was to keep track of blood sugars and insulin while playing professional baseball, it was special to me because my success helped other kids with diabetes have the confidence needed to pursue their own dreams of being an athlete.

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Smart logistics is a core element of the continuum of healthcare.

Gagnon: Why was it so important that MLB allowed you to play with a pump? How did using the pump on the field improve your performance?

Johnson: It was important to me that the league approved me wearing the pump on the field because it took away a lot of the worry that I had previously.

I was always wondering if my blood sugars were okay while I was out on the field, but the pump allowed me to concentrate more on pitching against the best hitters in the game.

Wearing my insulin pump improved my performance because I could fully commit to pitching without worry of low blood sugar levels, which used to be on my mind more than it should have.

Gagnon: What was the biggest difference between being on a pump and using multiple injections to manage your diabetes? 

Johnson: Being on a pump allows me more freedom to eat when I am hungry and not when I absolutely have to due to a change in my insulin levels.

Gagnon: Today you are using the Minimed 670G system. Can you tell us a bit about how your life has changed since?

Johnson: My experience on the MiniMed 670G system has been great so far.

It has eliminated my overnight low blood sugars — which I had problems with due to my constant activity during the day and night. It also helps keep my glucose levels more consistent so I can avoid the “roller coaster” effect.

Previously I would overeat because I was scared of low blood sugars, and then they would get too high. The pump helps to bring my levels back up with a lot less sugar intake than I previously needed.

Gagnon: What would you say to others who are considering insulin pump therapy?

Johnson: I would say that it has been a life changer, so definitely discuss it with your family and doctors and see if it is the best option for you — as it has been for me.

Gagnon: What do you wish someone told you about being an athlete with diabetes? Anything you would like to pass along to others?

Johnson: I wish someone would have told me that there are always going to be people — such as coaches and scouts — who will doubt you, but never prove them right.

Always strive to be better than anyone else because the doubt will go away fast once they see what you can do.

All photos courtesy of Medtronic.

*Individual results may vary.

This interview was modified from its original version. You can read the original conversation here.

Daniel Gagnon is Vice President of Healthcare and Life Sciences Strategy at UPS.

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