The day before ADA kicked off, I managed to catch a glimpse – my only glimpse this visit to San Francisco – of the Golden Gate Bridge from the back of an Uber on the way to the Diabetes Mine Summer DData Exchange (#DData19).

This is the third DData I’ve attended, and it always delivers. The speakers are brilliant and the topics on the agenda push some of the boundaries we’re used to seeing as part of the ADA conference that runs alongside. Amy Tenderich expertly emceed the day, and Mike Hoskins’ rapid fire tweeting made sure that those not in attendance had a birds eye view of the event.

This year, there was one session that really stood out for me and it was a panel session moderated by Adam Browne from diaTribe and included JDRF International CEO, Aaron Kowalksi and Alain Silk from the FDA.

For some time now, there have been efforts to move away from the idea of HbA1c being the be all and end when it comes to assessing the outcomes of diabetes management.

This doesn’t only mean in terms of the way we measure our own personal diabetes management, or the success or effectiveness of the devices, drugs or treatments on offer, it also is directed to researchers, clinicians and regulators who continue to use A1c as THE measure to determine the value of whatever they are talking about.

The push has been towards time in range (TIR) because with tools such as CGM and Flash glucose monitoring, this is something that can be easily measured and demonstrated.

The A1c is flawed – we all know that. Anyone with diabetes will have tales of A1cs going down, despite their diabetes management being more erratic, or conversely, their A1c increasing despite having fewer roller-coaster episodes. As a one-off number, it tells very little.

But while TIR is certainly one different way of having a look at just how we are tracking, with so few people actually using CGM or Flash (due to access and affordibilty), we can’t throw out other options. The A1c is not dead yet (just ask the queues of HCPs in the Exhibition hall at ADA waiting to get theirs done. Another blog post for another time…)

Also, TIR cannot be the only other measure we look towards as a substitute for A1c, and this session at DData explored more than the idea of a simple like for like between the two.

Aaron Kowalski highlighted how one of the first things people speak about when using an automated insulin delivery device is how their sleep improves. It was indeed the first thing that I noticed, and it was life changing for me. I noted that I slept like I did before diabetes!

Yet, this is not considered as part of regulatory decisions. Neither is how our diabetes experiences can be transformed. Aaron told the story of a young woman who rarely attended to diabetes tasks when around friends because she didn’t want to pull out her pump to check her CGM trace, or bolus insulin. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself or her diabetes. But being able to do those tasks by simply looking at her phone, or her smart watch meant that she felt so much better – and she did what she needed to do when she needed to do it. How are those improved experiences being documented and considered as part of why something is valuable?

In his earlier talk, Alain Silk from the FDA noted that one of the challenges when it comes to technology regulation is too much regulatory and contractual burden and not enough innovative devices getting into the hands of people with diabetes. The DIY movement manages to sidestep that first part and that means that we do have get to have those devices – those transformative devices – in our hands a lot sooner. Our experiences – which all seem to be positive – and our diabetes outcomes – which all seem to report improvements – really should count for something.

Surely one of the goals we are all seeking (and when I say all, I mean everyone involved in any aspect of diabetes) is to increase the time we DO NOT spend on diabetes anymore. At DData last year, DIY-er Justin Walker said that he believes he has gained back an hour a day since using an automated system. That’s seven hours a week. Over a year, that’s more than a total of fifteen days we get back from diabetes. Add that up over a lifetime of diabetes. It’s significant.

Aaron said that one of his goals as CEO of JDRF is to ‘…take diabetes out of our lives as much as is humanly possible.’ When devices allow us to do that – even if it’s just one little bit – that should be assessed as meaningful.

I have been thinking about this session a lot. In fact, anyone who has asked me about ADA has received a lecture on it. My poor boss got an earful when I returned to work on Monday. I’m pretty sure he regretted asking how I’d gone in San Francisco after I launched into a tirade about how we are simply not listening enough to people with diabetes when it comes to just what we are measuring as being valuable to us.

The problem with adding TIR to A1c as a way to assess devices, drugs or other therapies is that we still are focusing on nothing more than numbers. Sure TIR may be more robust and not simply a snapshot average, but it still attributes our success to a number.

When I talk about why Loop has been so transformative to me, I do mention TIR. But the biggest bangs for my buck – the things that really ring true – is not how much time I spend between two number goal posts.


It’s about how much better I feel about my diabetes. It’s about how much less time, less worry, less stress I am forced to dedicate to diabetes. It’s about how the hypos I have these days take three minutes to deal with rather than three hours. It’s about how less stubborn, and how less frequent those highs are. It’s about the much lighter shadow diabetes casts over my family. It’s about sleep – oh dear god, it’s about sleep! It’s about how easy it is to carry out those required tasks and how little they interfere with my day. And it’s about the time I have been able to claim back as my own.

The footprint of diabetes is so far smaller these days than ever before. THAT is what is meaningful. THAT is what I measure. THAT is what it means to truly go beyond A1c.


I attended ADA as part of my role at Diabetes Australia. My economy flights and accommodation have been covered by the organisation.

Thanks to the team at Diabetes Mine, who kindly provide diabetes advocates with the opportunity to attend their DData Exchange at a significantly reduce cost.