In To The Groove? Thoughts on the Animas Vibe and DexCom G4

I’ve been using my brand new Animas Vibe pump plus CGM for a week now, so I thought it was about time I reflected on the change which, in many ways, hasn’t actually been that big at all. Anyone outside Europe who is currently using the Animas Ping may be in for a bit of a disappointment if the Vibe, or equivalent, that becomes available in its place is the same as the Vibe that I currently have. The pump is essentially a 2020, with the Dexcom built in.

To be fair, there are some minor tweaks to the 2020 interface – some things have moved in place in the setup menus and there are forward and back arrows at the bottom of the menu screen to allow for easier scrolling. One of the big changes which is taking a massive amount of getting used to is that the results of bolus calculations are now auto-entered. So if the ezCarb and exbG functions suggest a bolus of, say, 4 units, the results screen will already have 4 units selected and you don’t need to scroll up from zero. I’d previously been told that Medtronic had protected this functionality and I think they’ve got around it by having a requirement to hit a button in the calculation result screen before the number shows up. But it is there and it’s a welcome change that will make bolusing faster once I stop starting to scroll up automatically!

However, there is no Ping functionality in the Vibe at all. There is no remote meter or remote bolusing. I have to admit that I find that disappointing even without having used the Ping. I think the Vibe has the potential to divide opinions because for some people having to fish their pump out to bolus, and equally to look at and deal with CGM alarms, isn’t ideal. Despite years of using integrated Medtronic CGM, I’m still on the fence. I expected to hate the separate Dex receiver when I switched, but now I’m worried I’ll miss it.

As for the CGM: First things first, the G4 transmitter is bigger than the Seven+ transmitter. As in, it sticks out quite a bit more. I find this a bit odd, but funily enough it’s exactly what happened to the Medtronic transmitter when they first integrated it in the pump. The original Paradigm Real Time 522/722 transmitter (the one with the little box and the wire, remember those?) was bulkier than the same style of transmitter that worked with the garage door opener Guardian RT unit. (I’m becoming quite disturbed by how many iterations of this technology I’ve now used!) I have no idea why this is, and don’t dare to hope it may mean a longer battery life. It’s something else that will take some getting used to though as it’s a significant enough difference that I keep accidentally knocking it on the surface of my skin.

As for some of the other features: well waterproof is nice, the same as previous Animas pumps, but as always, “waterproof” is really a customer service issue. There is nothing more waterproof about Animas pumps than Medtronic pumps, it’s simply that Animas will replace a water damaged pump. Medtronic will tell you tough luck if you deliberately submerged your pump and fried it. Cracks in the case of any pump render it non-waterproof and I’m convinced this is how my old IR1200 finally met its sticky end. And remember too that CGM works on radio frequency, so you won’t get CGM data whilst the whole system is submerged. (A team of pumpers recently swam the English channel wearing Vibes, and the CGM did pick up again instantly they exited the water).

The colour screen is actually beneficial where the CGM graphs are concerned. But here’s why: the graph disply is so small, in comparison to the stand alone Dex, that the colours are sort of needed to really see where you are. I was surprised at how different the display was, as the Animas screen is about the same height as the Dex screen. The issue is that it’s no where near as wide, so all the info displayed on the right of the Dex (current level, trend arrow etc) is squeezed at the top of the Vibe screen, with a consequent reduction in room for the graph. This is particularly apparent to me at the moment, as being pregnant I’m aiming for supertight control. You can’t easily visualise the difference between 4 and 6 on the graph as it stands.Personally I’d like to see some sort of option on the graph display to cut out the higher levels unless you hit them. A graph that usually shows 2.5 to, say, 14, might be adequate for a lot of people a lot of the time.

An important part of using CGM effectively involves looking at the trends over the longer term, as well as hour to hour. To do this, you obviously need to download the data to look at longer term trends. Personally, I’m a fan of the DexCom software. I found it easy to use and interpret and most importantly the download process was simple with the only drawback being the requirement to boot in to Windows – the slowest step in the whole process. Animas have done away with ezManager. (I’ll admit I never used ezManager for a number of reasons, so I can’t comment on how it compares) and now use a web based program called Diasend. Sadly this is a bit of a disappointment for me. It uses the same awful upload system that drove me batty with Medtronic, balancing the pump on a dongle and holding your breath that the transfer goes through. My first attempt hung FOUR times before the data transferred, which is particularly frustrating as you need to suspend insulin delivery whilst the transfer is being attempted, as well as losing CGM functionality – no new readings will be collected during this time. I’d much rather see a Dexcom style cable which actually plugs in to the pump. I know this could be an issue with waterproofing, but something has to be possible. I obviously don’t have a lot of data yet, so I’ve not totally got to grips with Diasend, but I definitely miss the overlaid Modal day as this was my most used DexCom report. I understand that direct sharing of data with your healthcare professional may be important for some people, but personally I don’t have a problem just emailing the reports. The content of those reports, and the ability to customise them, is much more important to me. So far I’ve spent a lot of tme searching for the data and eventually resorted to exporting it all in order to create my own trend graphs. Definite FAIL.

One more peculiarity that comes from the abandonment of ezManager: the option to access a food database is still on the ezCarb screen, but without ezManager, there is no way to set this up, so it’s essentially an empty menu. The User Guide states “the “Food List” option … is not yet operational with the Animas Vibe Insulin Pump you received with this Owner’s Booklet.” Which perhaps implies it will become functional at some point in the future. Not a biggie for me, since again I’ve never used a food database in my pump, but an oddity nonetheless.

The final big question: Is the G4 Sensor better than the 3rd generation sensors? Too early for me to call, especially as I haven’t really experienced any accuracy issues with the previous sensors. For the first few days I actually ran the DexCom alongside the Vibe for a bit of fun. It probably wasn’t a particularly fair comparison as the old Dex sensor was already a week old and I find that the accuracy of the sensors tends to be at its worst during the first 48 hours. But the old DexCom did win on picking up a low first on the first evening, although the Vibe caught up fairly soon. However, there’s a big but in this at present. Whilst I’ve not noticed a difference in results when the sensors are working, getting the G4 sensors to work has been more problematic. In just one week I’ve had to have two G4 sensors replaced as faulty, which is not a good ratio. I was surpsied to get several “ANT” (which somehow means “Out of Range”) alerts on my first evening using the Vibe – strange as the pump (and so receiver) is attached to me! I later got an “ERR 0” when I calibrated, which a cnsultatio with the user manual told me that I needed to wait 15 minutes and then recalibrate – something I have never had the equivalent of on the standlone Dex. Frustratingly though, when you recalibrate – for which there is no reminder – there is no real feedback. It takes the number and either works, or continues to display “ERR” leaving me unsure of whether I’d not waited long enough or where the problem lies. The first sensor dies completely on the second day, and the one I replaced it with also refused to be calibrated after 2 days.

Not the best start, especially when met by a customer service response of “Oh, we’re all still being trained on this. The only person who can help won’t be on until Monday….” But credit where it’s due, two new sensors dispatched and received rapidly, and the current sensor is so far trouble free.

I can say that I definitely prefer this to the (equivalent) Medtronic Paradigm Real Time 522 and 722 pumps that I used. Even leaving aside the sensor issues I experienced , the interface and display is far, far better. But I’m not 100% sold on the Vibe yet as, honestly, there aren’t any obvious benefits over the two part system other than having one less thing to carry and lose. And funnily enough, I do miss the extra receiver. We’ll see how it goes over the coming weeks, and how I feel about less stuff to carry when I’m schlepping a baby and all its equipment around!

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9 Replies to “In To The Groove? Thoughts on the Animas Vibe and DexCom G4”

  1. Thanks for this post; I currently own a 722 w/ CGMS; my warranty is up in a few months, so I’m considering (hopefully pending FDA approval) the Vibe or the Veo!

    1. No problem – I should probably update the post sometime though, as I’ve now decided that I much prefer a separate CGM to the integrated, for a number of reasons, including wanting to be able to conceal the pump under clothes, which is impractical with CGM, and downloading issues withe Vibe. If you’ve used integrated CGM in your 722 though, you’ve probably already thought about this issue. If I were in the US, I’d honestly get a Ping (the Vibe has none of the remote features of that pump) and a standalone DexCom G4. Good luck with whatever you decide though!

  2. I’d be interested in any update with your experience with the Animas Vibe. I’m in the US and separately use the Dexcom G4 and the Animas Ping. Like you, I am happy to have a separate CGM receiver due mostly to hearing alarms while I sleep.

    I am eligible for an upgrade to the Vibe when it comes out but wonder if I may be happier just using the two systems (CGM & pump) independently.

    Congrats on the new baby!

    1. Thanks fir your comment. Writing an update on my experiences is on my (very long!) to-do list! However, I’m very certain that I want to switch back to a separate Dex and pump as soon as I feasibly can with funding considerations. Carrying the separate receiver is no different than carrying a mobile phone, and it has numerous benefits over the integrated system (better screen size, better downloading, easier to hear alarms, more accessible when you want the pump hidden away etc). I also still think the Vibe will be a big disappointment if you’ve used the Ping and like the remote meter, as there is no remote at all. I will endeavour to write a proper update post in the next couple of weeks!

      The new baby is now a 21 month old toddler, who keeps me on my toes!

  3. Hi. I’d just like to say thank you for posting your appraisal of the integrated Dexcom. I’m am currently awaiting a pump, due anytime now. Having previously been sold on getting the Accu Chek Combo I have been told to seriously consider the Animas Vibe with integrated CGM as I am also looking at self funding the Dexcom G4 and in light of such I have been trying to gain users views via the net. However, the very reason I want the Accu Chek Combo is because I want to be able to tuck away my pump once I get it and bolus, etc, from the remote exactly as you have described. The thought of having to dig out the pump to bolts as well as check sugar readings doesn’t appeal at all. The only downside to pursuing the Accu Chek Combo is that the cost of obtaining the receiver for the Dexcom G4 and sensors is considerably more than if bought with the Animas vibe but I feel the freedom offered by the Accu Chek Combo and indeed by a standalone Dexcom G4 receiver outweighs the benefits offered by the Animas Vibe, as ever with these things, time will tell! Thanks again.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jonathan. I’m glad you found this useful. Two years in to the Atnimas Vibe, I can say that I will definitely be looking at separate devices again in the future. Good luck with your pump start – I’m sure that you’ve been told it’s a bit like being diagnosed all over again, but it can really transform your ability to control things!

  4. Thank you for writing this. My 13 year old sone is currently using the Omni Pod and also the Dexcom 4. It makes his life easier and we were looking at the combines all the information in one. your infomation is really helping us decide how to move forward with his insulin pump/CGM therapy.

    1. Thanks for your comment. After over two years on the Vibe, I’m pretty certain that I’d prefer to go back to a standalone CGM – still the DexCom though for sure. I just find it more of a hassle having the information on my pump when I want to be discreet with my pump. This may be less of a problem for males who more commonly have pockets to out their pump in! I’ve never been keen on the OmniPod myself, but a CGM integrated in to the OmniPod would still be like having a separate device due to the lack of tubes. It would just cut down the number of devices to carry and I definitely see the value in that circumstance. If CGM ever gets integrated in to any of the tubeless pumps, I may reconsider going tubeless! I hope you come to a decision that is right for your son

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