Are you tired of constantly tracking your insulin units and blood sugar levels? Do you often forget to take your insulin shot?
Smart insulin pens might be the solution you're looking for! These innovative medical devices are designed to simplify insulin therapy and diabetes management.
Equipped with Bluetooth technology, dose calculators, and mobile apps, connected injection pens can help track and manage your insulin injections, potentially improving your average blood sugar levels and quality of life.
Related article: Does Insulin Need to Be Refrigerated? How to Store it Correctly?
What are Smart Insulin Pens?
Smart insulin pens are advanced electronic medical devices designed to simplify insulin delivery and tracking insulin dosage for people with an insulin-dependent type of diabetes.
They work similarly to standard insulin pens but include additional features and functionalities to provide greater user convenience, dose accuracy, and insight into diabetes management.
Related article: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Insulin Injection Pens.
How do smart insulin pens work?
Smart insulin pens are user-friendly, with simple interfaces and intuitive controls. They use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to sync with diabetes management apps on smartphones.
They also generally come with built-in memory that can store insulin dosing data, including the type, time, number of insulin units injected, and blood sugar levels. That feature can help people with diabetes keep track of their insulin doses and their doctor adjust insulin therapy.
Some smart pens have additional features, such as reminders and alerts to help diabetics remember when to take their insulin. They may also include tools that help calculate insulin doses based on personal factors such as weight, blood glucose levels, and carbohydrate intake, facilitating functional insulin therapy.
Smart injection pens are reusable. They must be used with insulin cartridges and disposable pen needles.
Related article: The Ultimate Guide to Insulin Pen Needle Types and Sizes!
Advantages of smart insulin pens
Smart insulin pens offer many advantages over standard insulin pens, including:
- Improved convenience: The advanced technology behind smart pens is here to simplify insulin delivery by eliminating the need to record insulin doses manually or mentally, which can save time and significantly reduce the risks of wrong dosage.
- Increased accuracy: Smart insulin pens can help diabetics ensure that they are administering the correct amount of insulin, as they often come equipped with features such as dose memory and calculators that consider individual factors like blood glucose levels, weight, insulin sensitivity, and carbohydrate intake.
- Greater insight into diabetes management: By tracking insulin doses and blood glucose levels over time, intelligent injection pens can provide diabetics and their healthcare providers with valuable insights into their diabetes management that can help optimize their treatment.
- Better blood glucose management: Ultimately, with these features, smart insulin pens can help insulin-dependent patients achieve better diabetes management, reduce risks of dangerous highs and lows, and improve average blood sugar levels (HbA1c).
- Improved quality of life: Most patients find that smart pens reduce the burden of diabetes management, leading to an overall better quality of life.
Related article: What are the Best Insulin Injection Sites?
While smart insulin pens offer numerous advantages over standard injector pens, they may also have some disadvantages for certain people with diabetes. Before switching to a smart insulin pen, one must consider the following factors:
- Cost: As expected, smart insulin pens are more expensive than traditional pens. While they're reusable and the extra cost may be beneficial in the long run, they require a higher investment, especially if your health insurance does not cover them.
- Maintenance: Like any electronic device, smart pens require occasional firmware updates, adding to the overall maintenance burden. They’re also more fragile and can break if dropped on a hard floor or not correctly handled.
- Dependency on technology: These pens rely on technology to function. They may be more susceptible to malfunctions or connectivity issues.
- Privacy concerns: The companies selling smart injection pens may collect and store sensitive health data, which could be a privacy concern for some users. Carefully read the data collection and use policies before agreeing.
- Learning curve: While they're user-friendly and easy to use, smart pens require the patients to follow some initial training. It could be a barrier for people who aren't comfortable with technology, like older people, blind people, or children, for example.
Eventually, the decision to switch to a smart insulin pen must be discussed with your diabetes team. While they can significantly enhance diabetes management and quality of life for some diabetic patients, they may not be a good fit for everyone.
Related article: How to Calculate Your Insulin Dose Correctly?
What Smart Pens brands are Available?
Several smart insulin pen brands and types are available on the market, each with unique features and benefits. Here are the main ones:
InPen, Medtronic smart insulin pen
The InPen is the first connected insulin pen on the market and probably the most sold today. It was launched in 2017 by a San Diego company called Companion Medical but was acquired by Medtronic in 2020. Here are some of its specific features:
- Compatibility with fast-acting bolus insulin cartridges (Humalog, Novolog, and Fiasp).
- Half-unit dosing: The insulin can be dosed in half units, compared to most insulin pens offering full-unit dosing.
- Insulin dose tracking: The InPen collects insulin-dosing data and transmits it to the Companion app for a dose calculator that recommends future dosages and displays real-time active insulin on board (IOB).
- Injection reminders: Like a pump, the Companion app allows users to set up reminders for specific dosing times like breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime.
- Basal insulin tracking: While it doesn’t work with long-acting basal insulins, diabetics using the InPen can track basal doses and set reminders via the mobile app too.
- Data storage: The InPen App holds up to a year’s worth of insulin-dosing data, allowing for great insight into your diabetes management and insulin therapy results.
- Temperature sensor: It includes a temperature sensor built into the smart insulin pen that sets off an alarm if the pen’s temp drops below freezing or goes above room temperature, allowing optimal insulin storage temperature.
Related article: A Beginner’s Guide to Basal and Bolus Insulin.
NovoPen and NovoPen Echo Plus by NovoNordisk
The NovoPen® 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus are the smart insulin pens sold by Novo Nordisk, Medtronic's main competitor in the U.S. diabetes sector. They are very similar to the InPen, but some features and functionality vary, notably the half-unit dosage increment for kids.
The NovoNordisk smart insulin pens are available for people using NovoNordisk insulins only.
Related article: 10 Tips that Work to Inject Insulin Without Pain!
Other smart insulin pens
Other smart insulin pens or smart pen caps include:
- BigFoot Unity: a smart insulin pen cap that can be attached to most standard disposable insulin pens.
- Timesulin: a smart pen cap that fits onto a standard insulin pen and tracks the time since the last injection.
- Pendiq 2.0: a smart insulin pen available in Europe only).
Ultimately, which smart insulin pen, connected cap, or add-on device to choose first depends on what insulin you’re using, as well as individual factors that must be discussed with your healthcare provider.