Earlier this week, I heard about the big Medtronic update at Tidepool.  They’ve been working on making it possible for Medtronic users to manage their data through Tidepool, and that support went live yesterday.  President and CEO of Tidepool, Howard Look, stopped by SixUntilMe to talk about this new option from Tidepool and how the diabetes community’s approach to data can help raise the tide(pool) for all PWD.

Kerri:  So, you’ve had a busy week …

Howard Look:  It’s been a good kind of crazy. We formally announced full support for Medtronic MiniMed 630G, 640G, and 670G. This is in addition to all of the other devices we already supported from Abbott, Ascencia (Bayer), Dexcom, Omnipod, OneTouch, Tandem, Verio and lots more. Check out the full list here.

Kerri:  I use Tidepool for my Dexcom and Tandem data, but haven’t used a Medtronic pump in a while.  What does this mean for Medtronic users?

Howard Look:  If you’ve been looking for an alternative way to view your diabetes data that does not involve using Medtronic’s CareLink system. If you’re using a Medtronic pump with a Dexcom CGM, or the Abbott FreeStyle Libre, and want to see all of your data in place. If you’re looking for an easy way to share your Medtronic pump data with your care team. If you’ve been thinking, “I really wish I had an easy way to donate my anonymized data to help research!”. Or, if you use a Medtronic 630G, 640G, or 670G insulin pump and have been waiting for Tidepool to support your device, this means you can now start using Tidepool’s free software to upload, see, share, and donate your diabetes data.

Kerri:  Say more about that whole “free” thing.  

Howard Look:  From the beginning when Tidepool was formed as a nonprofit organization, we knew the way to make the most impact on the diabetes community was to give our software away for free. We felt then, and continue to feel today that this is the right thing to do.

Telling folks we give this away for free always raises an eyebrow at first, but here’s the quick breakdown of how we keep the lights on: we’re supported by public and private grant-making foundations like JDRF, the Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Goldsmith Foundation, we charge researchers to use our software to support their clinical studies, and we licence anonymized, de-identified data that has been donated by people with diabetes through the Tidepool Big Data Donation Project.

One thing is really, really important to point out with that last piece: We never, ever, ever, do anything with people’s data unless they explicitly opt in and give us permission to. The datasets that are part of the Tidepool Big Data Donation Project are from people who have explicitly said “Yes! I’d like my data to be used to help researchers and innovators.”

Kerri:  How has the Tidepool Big Data Donation Project been going so far?

Howard Look:  Great! The conversations we are having with academic researchers and industry innovators is inspiring and it’s been quite validating to know we are onto something big with this program. We’ve grown our own data science team at Tidepool to make better sense of all the data generously donated by the diabetes community. About 40% of Tidepool users have chosen to donate their anonymized data, and it’s already making a big difference. You can check out our data partners page to see how our data partners are using the data to make things better for the community, and also our Big Data blog to see some of our analysis.

It’s quite humbling to see the community take action and put their data to this kind of initiative. We take their trust quite seriously.

Kerri:  So if someone wants to use Tidepool to manage their Medtronic goodies, how do they do that?

Howard Look:  You’ll need to use our software, the Tidepool Uploader to make that happen. It works on Mac and Windows PC. Along with the Uploader, you’ll need a free Tidepool account and a Contour Next Link 2.4 meter – we use that to communicate with the pump.

Kerri:  What can people with diabetes uploading their 630G, 640G, or 670G for the first time learn when they see their data in Tidepool?

Howard Look:  Each person with diabetes is unique. They have individual goals and challenges that unlimited, unfettered access to their data can assist. Tidepool Web shows blood glucose meter, CGM, carb, bolus, and basal data all synced up so you can see not just what your diabetes was doing, but what you did to impact it.

Kerri:  I’m always concerned about privacy, though.  Can you talk more about who else gets access to data that’s uploaded to Tidepool?

Howard Look:  That’s entirely up to you, the person with diabetes using Tidepool. We believe people with diabetes own their data – full stop. Everything we do falls back to that primary belief. It’s our job to empower the community to do cool things with their data, but only with their expressed consent. Sharing data with their family or doctors, donating their data, participating in research, connecting to other applications, it’s up to you.

Kerri:  This has been in the works for a long time. Why did it take so long for you to add this?

Howard Look:  Getting this right takes a lot of time. In order to develop the code, review the code, test the code, resolve any bugs we found in testing, and test the code again, we have a thorough and detailed process.

We get it, most of the Tidepool team either has diabetes, a child with diabetes, or a spouse with diabetes. We understand the value of having access to all your diabetes data in one place, but more importantly we understand and respect the responsibility and obligation to get this right. With devices as complex as these, there’s a lot of testing that we require before we’re satisfied with our work.

Kerri:  All awesome news, Howard.  So what’s next for Tidepool?

Howard Look:  We’ll never stop improving the Tidepool experience. One of the things that is awesome about software is that it is never done. 🙂 We’ve done a really good job of creating a quality system that allows us to keep iterating and making the Tidepool experience better. We even got accepted into the FDA Pre-certification Pilot program, and are helping to redefine how the FDA evaluates software and the companies that make it.

There are two areas that are especially interesting to us right now:

The first is enabling a vibrant ecosystem of applications that allow people with diabetes to choose just the right apps for them. The app for a teen with T1D is going to be different than the app for the pregnant mom with T1D or the triathlete with T1D. For the nerds out there, that means we are working on enabling OAuth2 and REST API connectivity to the Tidepool platform, which will enable a whole bunch of new possibilities.

The second thing that we’re really excited about is adding more support for closed loop systems. We think they are fabulous, and adding support for the 670G is just the beginning. About half of our team are Loopers, most using either Loop or OpenAPS. We’ve been a part of the #WeAreNotWaiting movement from Day 1, and are continually inspired by how the movement has made such a difference for the community.

All that said, we also never want to be the company that over-sets expectations. The diabetes community has been burned too many times by promises of “A Cure in Five Years!” So in general we like to hold off on sharing our plans until we are closer to shipping. It’s a tough balance, because as an open source nonprofit, we also like to be really transparent about the work we do.

Kerri:  Nice, and thanks for leaning away from saying “a cure in five years.”  That makes my brain implode every time I hear it.  Can we close with you telling us how can people with diabetes get started using Tidepool to increase their data superpowers?

Howard Look:  You can create your free account at tidepool.org/signup and download the latest version of the Tidepool Uploader at tidepool.org/uploader. If you run into problems, send your questions to our Community Manager, Christopher Snider and tell him I sent you.