Choosing the Right Insulin Pump

Features and specifications differ between manufacturers and models. So how do you choose the right insulin pump? 

LaurieAnn Sheer, MS, RD, CDCES, FADCES


Considerations for Picking an Insulin Pump

Think your patient may be ready for an insulin pump? There are a number of choices on the market with new and enhanced options being introduced all the time. And while all insulin pumps do the same basic job of delivering rapid acting insulin to the body, some features differ between manufacturers and models that distinguish them from each other. So how do you choose the right one?

It’s important to select wisely. While it's now easier for many to switch pumps, if they choose incorrectly, the process for securing (or changing) insulin delivery devices can still be time-consuming and sometimes, frustrating. Use these quick tips to help make the best decision.

Cost & Coverage

Cost and insurance coverage is usually a driving factor for the choice of an insulin pump. Checking the insurance for what’s covered and understanding out of pocket expenses may narrow the options considerably. Since the pods of the tubeless pump are typically covered under the pharmacy benefit instead of the durable medical equipment (DME) benefit in many cases, this needs to be considered because it can impact how much a person is responsible to pay as well as total coverage for other pharmacy benefit needs.

Tubes or Tubeless

The next factor to consider is does a person want a tubeless pump or a pump with tubing for the infusion set. Both options offer benefits. A tubeless pump is attached directly to the body which for some people is a plus, especially those who are physically active and feel the tubes can get in the way. Or it might be best for some younger patients who may be tempted to handle or pull the tubing purposely or inadvertently. Other people prefer an option with tubing, so that they can remove the pump and tubing to shower, be intimate, participate in contact sports, or swim for example. The pump can only be removed for limited periods of time because when someone is not wearing the pump, they will not be receiving any insulin and as a pump user, they have no long-acting insulin in their system. Pump users rely on a continuous dosing of small amounts of fast acting insulin for their 24-hour blood sugar management.

Alarms, Alerts & Customizations

Different pumps have varying types of alarms for notifications and safety, deliver a variety of boluses, have exercise or sleep modes, are waterproof, have rechargeable or disposable batteries, can be viewed on or controlled by a smartphone, and include a follow function for caregivers. Pumps can be sorted and viewed by various features here (hot link to insulin pump product page) to help you help your patients with diabetes find the best pump for themselves.

When presenting the option of pump use to a person with diabetes, it is important to not only identify which pump works best for them, but to help them understand that they can configure the pump to meet their needs. And this is not a one-and-done process; an ongoing collaborative dialogue will help ensure that their use of the pump will help them manage their diabetes better instead of being a burden that negatively impacts their life.

Try It Virtually

Most manufacturers have hands-on simulator apps for pumps to try them out before they are purchased. These simulators can be downloaded to a smartphone and offer a way to learn the various features of each insulin pump. Visit our Apps & DTx section and search for "Device Specific" apps.

Don’t Forget About The CGM 

Another factor to consider is whether there is integration with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or glucometer. Some pumps have this integration for the user to self-manage while others work as an Automated Insulin Device (AID). An AID pump uses a programmed algorithm to adjust the delivery of insulin when the blood glucose reading from the CGM predicts the glucose to be out of range.

Consider a Free Trial Program

A few manufacturers, notably Insulet maker of Omnipod, have a few programs to get people with diabetes started. Patients can try a non-functioning Pod on to see what it feels like in the shower, under clothes and sleeping with their free Experience Kit. They can also sign up for a 30-day free trial. The trial is currently commitment-free and there are no contracts or costs.

Parting Thoughts

The technology for standard, integrated and AID pumps has evolved over the years and there are many great options to choose from. To get to know each of these options better, take a look at our Insulin Pump Comparison Tool and individual product pages. And again, check with your insurance provider. Often, it can be hard to switch once a pump is chosen so it benefits the patient to learn as much as they can ahead of time.

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This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit the ADCES finder tool.

ADCES and danatech curate product specifics and periodically review them for accuracy and relevance. As a result, the information may or may not be the most recent. We recommend visiting the manufacturer's website for the latest details if you have any questions.

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