Medtronic's new MiniMed 670G system is in focus.
Medtronic’s new MiniMed 670G system requires less user interaction, which makes for better control of diabetes. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

A new insulin delivery system looks to be making great strides in simplifying the way people with Type 1 diabetes can control blood sugar levels.

Among the more salient features of the MiniMed 670G system: It constantly self-adjusts to keep a patient’s blood sugar levels in range, ultimately providing greater blood glucose control with reduced input from the user.

The system includes a monitoring device and a pump that takes existing technology to a much higher level, according to Brandon Kiel, senior territory manager at Medtronic, the company that makes the system.

While patients who use the MiniMed 670G must still wear the same types of devices on their bodies—a sensor and an infusion site—the new system requires far less interaction.

It requires a bit more training upfront, too, but it’s less work for the patient in the long run.

“The patient doesn’t necessarily have to think about adjusting their insulin,” said Anna Chetrick, MS, RD, a diabetes educator at Spectrum Health. “The pump uses data from the monitor to adjust insulin automatically.”

Spectrum Health was selected as one of a few health systems in the country to launch the new insulin delivery system, which the FDA approved in fall 2016. It’s approved only for those with Type 1 diabetes age 14 and older.

Chetrick said she’s hearing good things from patients thus far.

“I was able to hear some of the feedback from preliminary training,” she said. “A lot of patients said they were finally able to sleep through the night because they didn’t have to worry about their pumps beeping or alerting them to do something.”

The new system is a step toward the creation of a totally automated system, but it’s still considered a hybrid system because it requires some patient interaction.

At mealtime, a patient must input into the device the number of grams of carbohydrates consumed. Instead of requiring the patient to manually adjust background insulin, however, the new pump automatically compensates for the higher sugar levels after meals, Chetrick said.

It’s not the first insulin pump system to help those with diabetes monitor blood sugar levels and deliver insulin, but it’s far more complex in its processes.

Integrated insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor systems have been around since about 2006, while insulin pumps (without the monitor) have been used for the past 30 years.

The insulin pump system itself has proven to be a major leap forward for those with Type I diabetes.

In the past, people with diabetes had to monitor their sugar levels by checking their blood four to eight times a day, said Gregory Deines, DO, division chief with Spectrum Health Diabetes and Endocrinology.

The patient would then self-administer insulin through injections using a vial and syringe or insulin pens.

In some cases a single shot would deliver long-lasting basal insulin, although some patients required several shots—four to five injections a day—of rapidly acting insulin.

There are two types of insulin, Dr. Deines explained. One is used for rapid release when a person’s blood sugar spikes, such as at mealtimes, and the other is for a longer-lasting basal insulin, which remains active in a person’s body 24 hours a day.

The MiniMed 670G system uses only rapid-acting insulin to deliver some as background or basal insulin 24 hours a day and some at mealtimes.

The first types of insulin pumps eliminated most of the shots and required much less interaction on the part of individuals.

Pump systems require the insertion of a very small tube underneath a patient’s skin for insulin delivery called a cannula, and then another very small sensor tube under the skin to monitor blood levels, Dr. Deines said.

With the MiniMed 670G system, patients must also refill insulin cartridges and change the infusion sites every three days. The continuous glucose sensor is changed once very seven days.