This week, I received my first insulin pump. After nearly 27 years treating my Type 1 diabetes with shots — sometimes six or more of them a day — I’m moving to the high tech solution to give me better control. It’s a neat system, complete with a Continuous Glucose Monitoring device that interacts with the pump, and a new glucose monitor that can also transmit its data to the pump. We’re getting baby steps closer to something like the artificial pancreas that people have dreamed of for decades.
It’s not without its shortcomings, of course. All the usual proprietary crap creeps up in this corner of medical commercialism, too. Namely, competing companies marketing competing products have proprietary ways of getting, transmitting, and storing that data. There’s lock-in. The best CGM isn’t necessarily compatible with the best pump. And there’s no third party application that could monitor all of this for you, because those medical companies are protecting their research and development expenditures by keeping their secrets and protecting their data.
Damned frustrating it can be, but it is what it is.
Wait for it — the computer angle of this is about to start.
My pump came to me from Medtronic, which also supplied a compatible blood glucose monitor and CGM. I have all the parts of the system I need with full interactivity. Starting at this point in the evolutionary timeline of diabetes control means I get to have some of the benefits of being a late comer.
The center of the system is a website named Carelink, which can retrieve all your readings — blood sugar readings from both the CGM and the glucometer, and insulin levels from the pump — and put them in one easily accessible place on the web. Charts, graphs, histories, etc. It’s all there for you and your doctor to see. You also have the option of letting Medtronic see it so they can continue to gather data on how well their devices are working. I’m fine with that, so I opted in.
So now, let’s get to the amazingly frustrating thing that puts everything else so far to shame.
I went to sign up for Carelink the other day, only to get this error screen:
I’ll type out the relevant portions for you:
“Required Settings: Windows 8 users: Close any browser launched from the Start screen and open your browser from the desktop.
Windows XP/Vista/7, Windows 8 Desktop, MacOSX 10.5 (Intel), MacOSX 10.6/10.7/10.8”
“Required Settings: IE 7/8/9, IE 10 Desktop (Windows), Safari 4/5/6 (Mac OS), Firefox 5”
All the power of standardized web browsers and web languages brings us to a system that lacks a clear equality between Mac and PC users. Suddenly, I’m stuck in in 1995 all over again. (I’d put up a fight for Desktop Linux users, but I doubt either of them are reading this.)
If you’re a PC person, you can be using Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. If you updated to 8.1 — and I haven’t read a review yet that says not to — you’re out of luck. If you use IE 11, you’re done, too.
And let’s face it, if you’re running a Microsoft box, you better damn well run the most up to date versions of all their software if you want to have any chance of having a secure computer.
If you upgraded to Mac OS X 10.9 six months ago when it came out, you can’t use Carelink. If you use Safari 7, you’re toast. You need to be running Safari 6 — a web browser released in the summer of 2012 — to be compatible.
Your other option is to use Firefox 5. That’s only about 23 versions out of date.
Chrome is not an option.
(Neither is Opera, but I think there are more Desktop Linux users than Opera fans at this point…)
I expressed my displeasure with this ridiculous state of affairs. Medtronic tweeted back:
@augiedb I'm sorry, we are doing what we can. CareLink is considered medical device software so it is required to go through government…
— Medtronic Diabetes (@MDT_Diabetes) March 19, 2014
@augiedb regulatory processes. This creates a time lag between the release of a new browser or OS and our new version of CareLink.
— Medtronic Diabetes (@MDT_Diabetes) March 19, 2014
I should have guessed it would be a government agency protecting me by not letting me use the best, most secure, and most compatible browsers and operating systems on the market. I guess I’m spoiled. I pay attentiong to the Mac software community, where people trip over themselves to get their products in the App Store on Day One of a new operating system release. They test on the betas, do a last minute quick check on the release, and they’re good.
With the FDA stepping in to “protect” me, they’ve not only slowed down the process, but they’ve managed to make everything worse.
Needless to say, this greatly shakes my faith in this software. What’s the FDA’s role in approving this software? Security? That’s a joke, because every browser they’ve approved to be used is less secure than current ones; every operating system they don’t approve is more secure than current ones. By nearly three years.
This is a joke.
I can download an old copy of Firefox and run it off in a corner on my computer at home, but I can’t change the operating system. I guess I could go out and buy a copy of VM Ware or Parallels and dig up an old disc from Snow Leopard, maybe? But that seems like an awful lot of work to go through to dumb down and downgrade my system for the sake of a website.
Unfortunately, there is a solution. My wife has a Windows 8 machine that she hasn’t upgraded to 8.1 yet. As of today, she won’t be. I need it now.
This is ridiculous. By now, this should be approved for the most recent operating system, at the very least. It’s not just an inconvenience, but an actual security threat. Your federal tax dollars at work…