Omnipod & Omnipod DASH: Tubeless Insulin Pumps
How do you choose the best insulin pump for you, or for your child? The key is finding the one with the key features that match YOUR family's needs and lifestyle - while also avoiding your personal deal-breakers. We'll help you figure that out by presenting a concise summary and clear details (including the pros and cons) of Omnipod® and Omnipod DASH® (by Insulet).
Unless otherwise specified, in this article "Omnipod" will refer to both the original Omnipod system, as well as the newest system, Omnipod DASH.
NOTE: This independent review is provided by Waltzing the Dragon; we are not affiliated with Insulet Corporation, the makers of Omnipod. For sales enquiries, please contact the company directly.
What is Omnipod?
The Omnipod® /Omnipod DASH® Insulin Management System is a unique type of tubeless insulin pump that continuously delivers up to 3 days of insulin with each application. It consists of a wearable Pod that is controlled by a Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM), which together allow caregivers, older kids, and adults with diabetes to deliver insulin wirelessly.
Top 9 Benefits of Omnipod
If there's one thing I've noticed online and on social media, it's that Podders really love their Omnipod! Here's a few of the reasons why:
- The biggest benefit of Omnipod/Omnipod DASH is that it's the only insulin pump available in Canada that has no tubing. Other insulin pumps have a flexible tube that carries the insulin from the pump to the infusion set. However, with Omnipod, the insulin is contained within the “pod” itself, eliminating the need for tubing. This is huge! It eliminates the hassles that come with tubing, such as working around clothing, the tubing being visible to others when you're out in public, the feeling of being "tethered" to the pump, and the possibility of snagging the tube on knobs or fingers. (On that note, when our son was little, I once pulled the pump tubing / infusion set right out of his bum while I was pulling down his pants for him to go to the bathroom - that meant an immediate set change was required!)
You/your child can wear the Pod discreetly under clothing, while carrying the Omnipod / Omnipod DASH System PDM (or your smartphone... read on) separately in a pocket, backpack or handbag.
2. Easy Insertion
- The cannula inserts automatically at the push of a button, with no injection needles in sight.
You simply (1) Fill the Pod. The Omnipod DASH pod automatically primes itself and performs a series of safety checks to prepare for insulin delivery. Then you (2) Stick the pod to your body, on any viable infusion site (almost anywhere you would give yourself an injection). Then (3) you press Start. The cannula inserts automatically and basal insulin delivery begins according to the personalized basal rates you have programmed into the PDM. This basal insulin delivery will continue without any input for the life of the Pod (up to 3 days). When your child eats, or needs a correction dose of insulin, you use the PDM to deliver a bolus, again according the rates and ratios that you programmed into the handheld Omnipod® PDM or Omnipod DASH® PDM (I:C, or Insulin-to-Carb Ratios, as well as ISF, or Insulin Sensitivity Factor).
3. Wireless Insulin Delivery via the PDM
- Insulin doses are calculated and delivered by pushing a few buttons on the handheld “PDM” (Personal Diabetes Manager, a type of meter-remote), which also serves as a blood glucose meter.
- The wireless PDM works up to 1.5 metres away from the Pod, and has a large, colour screen; the newest system, Omnipod DASH PDM has a touchscreen, plus a fresh new design for the user-interface. As an added bonus, the ID screen is customizable to help you easily identify your PDM.
- Basal settings are fully customizable for your individual insulin needs (like all insulin pumps), and are stored automatically so the PDM (meter remote) can be out of range without affecting basal insulin delivery, which continues in the background for as long as you are wearing the Pod.
- Zero Basal Rates are allowed (0.0 units/hr), which is handy for insulin-sensitive Podders (which may include young children and those who are in the "honeymoon" phase).
- Carb presets can be entered in the PDM so you don't have to keep hunting for them, they're always there and available to the bolus calculator in the PDM.
- You can set various presets on the DASH PDM to establish favourites, tag your activities and personalize insulin delivery based on your daily routine.
- In addition, the PDM stores and summarizes history information about insulin delivery, blood glucose readings, alarms, and carbohydrates, so you can view all your data on the PDM itself, OR...
4. Smartphone Connectivity
NEW WITH THE OMNIPOD DASH:
- In addition to the dedicated PDM, you also have the option of viewing your BG data on your iPhone with the Omnipod DISPLAY™ mobile app for iOS. Also, with the Omnipod VIEW™ mobile app for iOS, you can share your data with up to 12 family and friends. That means parents can now remotely view their child's stored BG results and all other therapy status info anytime their child is away from them: at school, at a friend's house, while exercising or playing in a hockey game. This is huge peace of mind for us parents!
- Bluetooth wireless technology means that the Pod, the BG meter, and the PDM or smartphone are all connected, making it easier to view and share a Podder's data.
Note that you cannot bolus from your smartphone; the Omnipod DASH™ PDM is the only way to deliver insulin. (The DISPLAY™ app is a secondary display for your PDM information and related Pod status.)
- Free iPhone widgets are also available with Omnipod DASH, which allow you to view your pump and Dexcom CGM data on a signal screen on your iOS mobile device, simplifying your battle with the diabetes dragon.
- There's a Pod Site Tracker to help you track the rotation of your Pod site locations. One less thing to think about!
5. Data Review
- You can upload your glucose data to Glooko and diasend for viewing, analyzing trends, and finding paths for improvement.
- You can set up the PDM to automatically upload your data whenever the PDM is connected to Wi-Fi. It's one less thing to think about, and your data is all there whenever you need it.
6. Waterproof Pod
The Pod has a waterproof IP28 rating for up to 7.6 meters for 60 minutes. So you can swim, shower, bathe, exercise (kayak, go over Niagara Falls in a barrel...) while you're wearing the Pod. The PDM (meter remote), however, is not waterproof, so keep it in a dry bag or leave it on the shore.
7. Express Yourself!
- Podders have a ton of options for creative self=expression. The Pod lends itself very well to decorating with stickers, jewels and any other crafty-creative art that your child can dream up. This can turn the drudgery of diabetes into a fun fashion project.
8. Generous Warranty
- 5-year warranty period on the PDM (meter remote) is (along with one other pump company) the longest available in Canada. Many provincial government pump funding programs will only provide a new pump every 5 years; Omnipod's warranty period matches this time period, so if you access government funding in your province, you don't have to worry about your child's pump being out-of-warranty for a year until your family is eligible for a new pump.
9. You Can Loop If You Want To
- Omnipod is one of only a few insulin pumps that can be used to "Loop," that is, to set up a do-it-yourself Automated Insulin Delivery (AID) system that will adjust insulin doses up or down based on real-time glucose readings. So if for whatever reason, you don't want to or are unable to access an industry-created system with automatic insulin adjustment (like t:slim's Control-IQ, or Medtronic's Auto Mode with the Minimed 670G/770G), Omnipod could be the ticket to creating your own DIY system.
Note however that this DIY system is NOT affiliated with Omnipod or Insulet. It's open-source, community-supported programming.
Some Drawbacks of Omnipod
The unique, tubing-free design comes with some downsides, too:
1. High Profile Pod
- In order to get rid of the tubing, the pod must contain the pumping mechanism, insulin reservoir, and all the insulin needed for the next few days, therefore it has a higher profile than infusion sets used for insulin pumps with tubing (which lie virtually flat against the skin). While this isn't a problem for many adults, the Pod may feel large and bulky on a little body. (With that in mind, however, you may feel that for your family, the absence of tubing makes up for the larger size of the Pod.)
2. Only One Infusion Set Available
- In insulin pumps with tubing, since the insulin reservoir and infusion set are separate components that are connected by tubing and can be disconnected from each other, it's easy for a company to offer multiple different types of infusion sets (plastic vs. metal cannula, different cannula lengths, different angels of insertion). However, with Omnipod the infusion set AND the reservoir are contained in one component, the Pod. I can only imagine that offering different types of infusion sets would become a logistical headache, as you would have to re-produce the reservoir with each type of infusion set, making a different Pod for different users. This would take away the simplicity that is currently a major benefit of the system. The upshot is that Omnipod offers only one infusion set (auto-inserting, 9mm, angled).
3. Enough Insulin for 3 days?
- Since the Pod has to contain the reservoir plus all the insulin needed for the next few days (in order to eliminate tubing), and since there's a practical limit on how big the Pod can be to still be comfortably wearable, there's a limit on how big the internal reservoir can be. The Omnipod/Omnipod DASH reservoir holds up to 200 units of insulin, which may be enough to last a full 3 days, but may not be if you/your child has higher insulin needs. If you run out of insulin before your next scheduled set change, you need to reinsert a new pod, which could mean you're going through pods more quickly than you would like (raising the hassle factor, as well as the cost).
- On the other end, the Pod requires a minimum fill of 85 units, which may result in insulin wastage for those with low insulin needs, such as small children.
Tip from the Trenches
When my son first started pumping at 3 years old, his insulin needs were very small: less than 10 units per day for basal and bolus insulin combined. However, in the past year or two we have seen his insulin needs soar as he has grown into adolescence: his Total Daily Dose of insulin has more than tripled, requiring us to fill each cartridge with 250 units or more in order to have enough insulin for 3 days between set changes. Future insulin needs are something to keep in mind when choosing an insulin pump for your child not just for today, but for the 4-5 years for which they may be wearing a given pump. ~Michelle
4. Keep Track of that PDM!
- The PDM is required to deliver an insulin bolus for food or to correct above-range BG; there is no way to deliver a bolus with the pod alone. So if the PDM malfunctions or is lost and a backup PDM is not available, there's no way to deliver insulin to cover food and high glucose. The user will need to either invest in a backup PDM for such an occasion, or deliver boluses via injections until a replacement PDM is obtained.
The good news with Omnipod DASH is that there's now a "Find My PDM" feature in the iOS mobile app, to help you track down a misplaced PDM.
Other Notes About Omnipod DASH
- the current Omnipod® pods and PDM are not compatible with Omnipod DASH® pods and PDM. If you're switching, you'll need to switch completely to the new system. That being said, you don't have to switch; there are no immediate plans to discontinue the previous Omnipod® system.
- Omnipod DASH uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery.
- Omnipod/Omnipod DASH pair with Contour® Next One blood glucose meters, automatically sending the BG readings to the PDM for viewing and bolus calculation. You can still use any meter of your choice, you'll just need to manually enter the blood glucose value into the PDM for any meters other than Contour® Next One.
- Omnipod DASH® PDM has a 10 cm (4") screen, and is about 1cm thick.
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