71 minutes | Apr 27, 2021

Ben West: Using Diabetes Tech to Relieve the "Onus to Bolus"

Ben West was a key organizer and architect of Nightscout and OpenAPS software. Even after all of the DIY and commercial development of the last ten years, he says we've barely scratched the surface of removing the mental and physical burdens from people with diabetes. Among those burdens, he says, is what he calls the onus to bolus - the responsibilities of diabetes that even the most advanced current software can't totally relieve. Ben is now the CEO at Medical Data Networks which has launched its first venture: T1 Pal.  Read the Nightscout email Stacey mentioned (click here)  Check out Stacey's book: The World's Worst Diabetes Mom! Join the Diabetes Connections Facebook Group! Sign up for our newsletter here ----- Use this link to get one free download and one free month of Audible, available to Diabetes Connections listeners! ----- Get the App and listen to Diabetes Connections wherever you go! Episode Transcription (rough draft) below Click here for iPhone      Click here for Android     Stacey Simms  0:00 Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dario health manage your blood glucose levels increase your possibilities Gvoke Hypopen the first premixed auto injector for very low blood sugar, and by Dexcom take control of your diabetes and live life to the fullest with Dexcom.   Announcer  0:21 This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms   Stacey Simms  0:26 this week talking to someone who is deeply technical, but also deeply thoughtful, who has been an incredible part of the Do It Yourself movement over the last 10 or more years. But who says we've barely scratched the surface of removing the burdens mental and physical from people with diabetes. So welcome to another week of the show. We aim to educate and inspire about diabetes with a focus on people who use insulin. I am Stacey Simms. And yes, this show is already a little different sounding here at the top no big intro or tease. And that's because my interview with Ben West is massive. It is very long. It is the longest one I have done so far on this show. But it is well worth your time. I am so excited to bring you this interview with Ben Ben West was a key organizer and architect of the Nightscout and open APS software. He is now the CEO at medical data networks which has launched its first venture T1Pal, I think Ben influenced or work with or sometimes both just about every person I've talked to under the we are not waiting umbrella. And if you're not familiar with that, if this is your first episode, welcome, but we are not waiting is kind of the rallying cry that became a hashtag back in 2013. And if you are new, I use it as a keyword you can search for it all one word, we are not waiting over at Diabetes connections.com and see every episode that has featured those incredible do it yourself, people the community that really rallied together and push the technology side of diabetes forward, I believe many many years ahead where it would have been otherwise, as I said, it is a very long interview. But you know, it's a podcast, listen in chunks. Stop, start, you know, however you want to do it. But please, I really hope you'll listen to Ben because he has so much story to tell and a lot of thoughts on how diabetes care really needs to improve. In the short time since I spoke to Ben, there has been a bit of a discussion within the Nightscout group about his business. It is part of an ongoing debate about the future of Nightscout and the future of open source in type one, Ben has the full support of the night scout foundation. In fact, they sent out an email on that and some other issues. And I will link to that in the show notes. I think it's a very good read. In addition to touching on this issue, it is a great way to catch up on what's going on in that space. So we'll get to Ben West in just a moment. But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you buy Gvoke Hypopen . And you know when you have diabetes and use insulin, low blood sugar can happen when you don't expect it. That's why most of us carry fast acting sugar and in the case of very low blood sugar, why we carry emergency glucagon, there's a new option called Gvoke Hypopen, the first auto injector to treat very low blood sugar. Gvoke Hypopen is pre mixed and ready to go with no visible needle in usability studies. 99% of people were able to give Gvoke correctly find out more go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the Gvoke logo Gvoke shouldn't be used in patients with pheochromocytoma or insulinoma visit Gvoke glucagon.com slash risk. And this is a good time to remind you that this podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. Ben, it's great to talk to you. Thanks so much for jumping on and sharing some time with me and my listeners.   Ben West  3:55 Oh, thank you, Stacey. I'm happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.   Stacey Simms  3:59 I'm not even sure where to start. I have so many questions I want to ask you and there's so much history here. So maybe we just start if you don't mind. Back in college when you were diagnosed. You were student right? You were young adult.   Ben West  4:12 Yeah, I was a college student when I was diagnosed and I had all the classic symptoms where I you know, I was going to the bathroom a lot and just didn't know what was happening. My diagnosis story is I went through this for probably a week and one night I realized I had gone to the bathroom like seven times in the one night and I realized that means if that's once an hour like what sleep did I get last night. I'm nowhere near eight hours of sleep. This seems like a serious problem. So I went to a health clinic in my college town. And they said well, you're a skinny young adult, so we don't know what's going on with you. Maybe you did eat something and you didn't tell us I wasn't eating anything either. And they sent me home with some pills and said call us in two weeks. Someone through the grapevine heard that that didn't sound quite right actually came and interrupted one of my music lessons and said, you know, you need to go to the hospital there. Oh, wow, they're expecting you there. So I went to the hospital, and they checked me in over the weekend and diagnosed diagnosed me with type one. Wow,   Stacey Simms  5:13 you were lucky, right? Lucky that they interrupted your lesson there.   Ben West  5:16 Yeah, you know, I mean, I've heard a lot of stories during the work that I do. And yes, as diagnosis stories go that I you know, that's pretty mild. Yeah,   Stacey Simms  5:26 I guess I should ask you some technical questions from the very beginning. What were you using? I assume that in 2003, you didn't immediately start tinkering with an insulin pump. Right? You You went on a more traditional routine at the start?   Ben West  5:38 Well, I actually had to drive 45 minutes to clinic and Little Rock house in a different part of Arkansas going to college. And I had to drive 45 minutes to get to an endocrinologist and the endocrinologist at that time that I thought I was lucky to be getting into the specialist where they actually deal with, they actually specialize in diabetes here. And I met with the nurse, the PA, and the representative from Medtronic was actually in the room. They actually said, You seem like a smart young lad, we'd like to get you out a pump as soon as possible. And it turned out as soon as possible was like nine, you know, nine months later. So I went through the whole syringes and shots and meters and got on the on the pump. But at that time, they actually told me Yeah, the benefit of going on the pump is dispenses insulin automatically. And in the future, we're going to have CGM. There's some CGM already in the works. Those will be here sometime. And then when you get the CGM and the pump combined, it does like all these things together, right, like so I understood right away what they're talking about in that office very early on. Okay, you got you can measure glucose, and you got this pump. And in theory, it should be doing all of these things together. At that time, they even said, You know what, they even have a patient in California right now, it's got a fully implanted version. So sometime in the next five years, we're gonna have a fully implanted CGM insulin pump combo, it'll do all the work for you. This is all just temporary. That's what they told me.   Stacey Simms  7:01 2003 Yeah, just to be clear, though, Ben, the Medtronic rep was in the room with you at your doctor's appointment?   Ben West  7:09 Yeah. Wow. You had some introduction? I was actually I was glad they were honestly, that certainly seemed to be the, you know, take these pills and call us in two weeks approach.   Stacey Simms  7:20 Sure. Yeah. It also beats a bunch of other people who had their doctor say five years to a cure. I mean, yeah, you know, there's a lot of really bad ways to be diagnosed and to have those first conversations, but man, that's fascinating. Who was the person in California who had an implanted pump and CGM? What was this like, fantasy made up? No,   Ben West  7:39 I think I know, I believe him. I, I've toured the Medtronic facilities, again, during the work that I do, and they've invited me over, and they have a hallway of all kinds of awesome stuff that, you know, never made it to market or, you know, there's a lot of cool things that go on behind the doors. I'm still using a 515. I think that was in 2008. So certainly, I I'm a big believer in what they do. There is a lot of potential that I think is clearly been untapped behind this technology.   Stacey Simms  8:12 So fast forward nine months, you jump on to your insulin pump. It's not hooked up with a CGM. At the time I would assume.   Ben West  8:19 No, it the CGM didn't exist yet. Yeah, it wasn't on the market. Yeah.   Stacey Simms  8:23 What was your experience? Like with the pump?   Ben West  8:25 Oh, it's okay. It's fine. I preferred it to the shots. But everything's got trade offs. Right. I had at the time I, you know, was going in or wasn't music major. And I so I had performances that are assessed as part of my official grade. And, you know, I'd go in for these performances, and some one of the teachers would tell me hide that thing. You know, they had wires hanging out, right? And I told him, you know, I'm not trying to hide anything, I shouldn't have to hide it. And he told me, You shouldn't show it off. I thought, wow, here I am going for a performance. And that's, that's the last thing I want to be thinking about right now. Sheesh,   Stacey Simms  9:00 did you win that fight? Or did they make you hide it?   Ben West  9:03 If you're a college student working for a grade? Yeah, you're gonna, you're gonna put it away real fast, right? I mean, that's terrible.   Stacey Simms  9:11 What made you start thinking about tinkering with stuff? Because you started doing that on your own is my understanding, right? This was before you met a lot of people in the community that you started, I don't want to say taken apart, I'll let you tell the story. But you started doing this stuff in 2008 2009,   Ben West  9:28 the winter of 2009 into 2010. I remember that's when I started with a different focus. Actually, I don't know if you've talked to Scott hanselman at all, but he's, he's known. He's known for saying that every person with diabetes ever, right? The first thing they do is they start working on on something less less than the burdens here. And actually, that was true, right? As I was diagnosed, I had some experience as a computer science minor with some programming, and often my side projects, and I remember I built a dashboard. Actually, in 2003, right after I was diagnosed, that allowed me to enter in all the information into a database, right? Because I was walking around with, you know, three by five index cards, trying to write down all these carbohydrates and insulin injections. And it was getting really tedious. But I did that for years with pen and paper and pencil. And I thought, surely, why are the doctors giving me a hand drawn curves on napkins? Like, what is that about? Why are they sketching on these pieces of paper and the way that they were explaining this to me in the hospital, I thought they were going to show me a full on simulation that showed how my body was working. I've been watching too much Star Trek.   Stacey Simms  10:44 Well, you know, I'm with you. We expected things like that, too. When you said you made the dashboard. What did you use for the interface? Was it computer was it?   Ben West  10:53 Yeah, it was this was before web 2.0. This was all PHP and HTML. And I realized I was horrified. At the result, I realized I was never going to use it. It was a wall of inputs, where it's just like tons of inputs. And I wrote for times, and dates and readings. And I realized there's no way I'm going to use that. Look at it. Why would anyone use that. That's why I'm going to use pen and papers, because they're the software for this is very difficult. Then web 2.0 happened, there's a bunch of things in the 2000s, as we approached into 2010, that I, you know, I graduated school, I got into industry moved to San Francisco, the hardest Silicon Valley doing, you know, web dashboards for companies, professionally, where we're really solving people's problems where if you have this complicated problem, you can share the link with a view of that problem, and the tools for solving that problem with someone else. And that ability to share that link made the possibility for solving problems collaboratively possible in new ways, transformative ways that really fundamentally change the workflow for solving problems. So that idea really got into my head professionally, as we kind of approached 2009 in 2010. I had tried my first CGM about five years later, right, so around 2008. And the experience with that CGM was was not great. I had to go through insurance, right, they said, I had to get a new insulin pump to get to the integrated system that would read onto the insulin pump. The insurance said, we're not going to pay for that for this new one. And not only that, but according to our policy, you should never have gotten one. So that seems like an issue. Yeah. So it took us It took another nine months, right. And, you know, it goes to the appeals board. And the appeals board comes back and says no insurance, you should, you know, that's medically necessary, she should pay for it. So I finally got the pump in the CGM. And like a lot of people that I see on social media that are excited by the promise of the benefits of this new technology, I tried to really make it work for me, right, I got all the glue out. Skin all louder than the adhesive and I got the I got it covered, right with all the contact stuff. And then I'm going out for yoga, right and it's hot, and I'm doing you know, bendy stuff. And you know, you take off your shirt is a lot of people do. And then you're in a shirt, you realize you're the only one with like all this stuff. And it's like, it's not just one thing, it's the air, you got your pump over there. And he got your CGM patch over here. And it's like, it's not working out like at night. It's itchy. You know, it tickles. Except it's not tickle, it's you realize it's, it's itchy. And then you realize to your heart that that's actually the chemical burn that's happening with adhesive in your skin. And then the things alarming and I'm getting sick of the readings, I get data, what they call data overload, right where it says 240. And I feel like you know, I don't feel very good. And I take a bunch of insulin. And then, you know, an hour later says, well, you're 230 or whatever. So I don't like that. I still don't like that. So I'm going to take even more insulin. And then yeah, three hours later, you know, your doubt at 60. And the things reading 110. Right. And, you know, you're really not feeling good. This thing, made my life a mess. And I decided I'm gonna have to quit. And I was horrified that I was not going to use this thing that I had gone through so much effort to get to this point to be able to use it and that I wasn't going to get any benefits out of it. And the slap in the face for me as someone that was working on these on these systems of systems that were connected through the internet, and seeing the innovation take off and seeing the technology transform, collaborative decision making. The slap in the face for me was that this data was stuck on this little two inch display in my pocket. And there was like there was no way to get that data where other people could see it or like my doctor could see it where like app developers could put it into the simulator and make a simulator if one was missing, and 2009 and 2010 that really didn't sit with me anymore. So I thought apparently I have some skills here. And, you know, maybe I should try applying them just to see if I can get a time series. You know, wouldn't that be neat? If I can just get a little time series, you know, off the device that I use? Wouldn't that be kind of neat?   Stacey Simms  15:11 All right, I'm gonna stop you there. But as the time series,   Ben West  15:14 just the normal chart that we see where we've got data points along some time. So you've got three hours of time on the chart, just like we see with any other glucose traces data, you've got one dot every five minutes. And that happens, because you get every dot that you see is one of those data points. If you can get a bunch of data points over time, you can generate that time series.   Stacey Simms  15:37 Now I know a lot happened, you know, in those years between 2008 or 2009. And then 2013, when you started a tight pool, can you take us a little bit through that time, how you met people how you got connected with the diabetes community?   Right back to Ben answering that question. But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dario. Health. And you know, one of the things that makes diabetes management difficult for us that really annoys me and Benny isn't actually the big picture stuff. It's all the little tasks adding up. Are you sick of running out of strips, do you need some direction or encouragement going forward with your diabetes management with visibility into your trends help you on your wellness journey? The Daario diabetes success plan offers all of that and more No more waiting in line at the pharmacy no more searching online for answers. No more wondering about how you're doing with your blood sugar levels. Find out more go to my Dario comm forward slash diabetes dash connections. Now back to Ben answering my question about how we found and got connected with the diabetes community.   Ben West  16:48 I need to get more serious about my problem solving. And that means if I want to help, as soon as it seems to get a lot of ground to cover, so if I need help, I need to ask a well formed questions in a targeted way. And I thought, you know, if I need help, the people that can help me are probably other people with diabetes. And so I started looking around on all kinds of social media, I was on to diabetes, for the really early platforms, and several others, there's diabetes has that and there was there are a couple of organizations before Twitter was even really becoming popular. So I kind of reached out on some of those and found some people disagreed with the things that I was expressing they, some people thought that I should just feel grateful for the devices that I had.   Stacey Simms  17:28 I remember this, there was a lot of movement at that time, because I was on some of those boards to where it was, Hey, you know, it's it's okay for now. Like it's better than it was we're not testing with urine. We're not doing right. We're things are changing. Why do you want so much data? He was an interesting time. I didn't mean to interrupt you. But I remember that.   Ben West  17:47 Yeah. It's interesting that for you to say that, thank you for remembering that that really puzzled me. It emphasized for me How important was to frame the right questions. Partly because of that those disputes, I started really focusing on the advocacy of data access. And that became my touchstone issue. Well, up until very recently, I would say, well, I've shifted recently towards embracing language matters a bit more. One of the things I've learned over the last 10 years, I think, is that language matters. And in this data access issue, are actually the same issues with the same solutions. And we will get into that. But   Stacey Simms  18:23 yeah, we'll definitely talk about that. And just trying to, you know, to kind of get the timeline here, but yeah, so you, you've got this really interesting movement within the community, but it's a small part of the community. As I said, I was there. I don't think I grasped it at all. I mean, I had a little kid, my son was a toddler at the time, you know, he was diagnosed in 2006. So I was getting into all of this, but I was definitely more of the rah rah cheerleader, kind of let's do the Big Blue test. If you remember to diabetes, you probably remember that rather than how can I free the data because we didn't have a Dexcom or a CGM for many years.   Ben West  18:53 So at that time, right at the time, I was already familiar with things that have happened in the tech world, the things that, you know, the worldwide web, the web technology that we use, has gone through this where there's lots of companies involved, some of them compete. And in fact, I remember on one of my job interviews, I was shocked to hear the interviewer say, Oh, yeah, we're partners with the, you know, these other people. I said, Wait a minute, are they competitors for this other product? And they said, Yeah, you know, we compete and we cooperate. We do both, you know, it's not, it wasn't an issue in other industries. And somehow innovation that that's unlocked. Now, we have finance, we have healthcare, we have every sector of life we do online now. And if you're not doing it online, it's because you're doing it on your mobile. And actually, it turns out that's done online also. Right, yeah. Behind the scenes. And so that's the same transformation that I saw happening everywhere, regardless of the problem space of even for the most complicated problem spaces. And so I knew that what we need the thing that made that possible on the web, and on the internet on the web, it was Use source. So any web browser that you have, there's a function where you can go in and edit. And you can say view source. And it shows you all of the source code that's used to present that web page for you. It turns out that that's a critical part of that innovation to market pipeline, because more people are able to access the data that makes the thing go, that DIY access, if you will, for the web, that view source that allows anyone to get access to it, that does a couple things. One is that it gives more people access to making things and that network connectivity is what allowed a lot of innovation that we see, in 2008. Nine, that's when I started talking about data 2010. And yeah, through 2013, I started to code switch, which means that I talked about data in the most austere terms possible, in order to attract those other folks that already understood how important that was. So that together with them, I could look to build this ecosystem so that people would start to get it, I knew that if we could deliver a couple of applications that utilize this open architecture, this open ecosystem, the feature set would grow, the popularity would grow. And that would start to shift the things that people were talking about that people would start to talk about, we want access to the data so that we can get things like this, we want access to the data so that we can have bring your own device, we want access to the data so that we can get these innovative systems on the market more quickly.   Stacey Simms  21:37 So put it in perspective for me if you could, one of the touchstones that I come back to again and again, is that D data meeting in 2013? That diabetes mind and Amy tendril put together where we are not waiting was written on the whiteboard. Where were you during that time?   Ben West  21:54 Yeah, I was in the room. There are about a dozen folks in the room. Sarah creepin. Was there a Jana Beck was there, Joyce Lee? Was there, Amy tedric was there? You know, Howard look was there late despereaux. Was there john kostik. And, you know, a bunch of Brandon arbeiter, a bunch of those core typu folks were there. The takeaway, as it's been said many times before, was, you know, john kostik, was there talking about how he had utilized this technology to get some benefits for his son, that was his big story was I really care about my son is my job to deliver these benefits, I'm going to do it somehow, whatever it takes, that's what I'm going to do. And Layne came along and said, You know, we've got this experience with operator fatigue, in control rooms with complex processes that never shut down. And here's the things that I've learned. And here's the display that I put together, and I call it nightscout. And this was before, what we now think of as nightscout didn't really exist. This was before that this was like when there were separate pieces, and like different projects, everyone was just blown away by nightscout. In particular, this idea of what john was doing, getting the data and what Lane was doing, having a really smart interface for it, that and having it operate in real time gave us a really crisp, clear vision of what are the kinds of benefits that we should be talking about that we should be expecting that we should be seeing in the next 12 to 18 months? What is it feasible to make technically. And it turns out some really cool things were technically feasible.   Stacey Simms  23:26 When I speak to people from the DIY movement, or you know, whatever you want to call it. When I talk to you folks, over time, I have learned never to really ask well, what do you do? Right? I know, it's very, very collaborative. And so I stopped asking that question. But I would like to know, if you don't mind, could you share kind of what you were working on? Well, that's   Ben West  23:47 first t data, I was tide pool had just gotten started. So I was actually employee, I was one of the very early employees tide pool. So I was working with tide pool as an engineer trying to launch the MVP, our very first shipping product, we were trying to get that up off the ground from prototype and into production. So I was spending a lot of time on that. On my own time, I was spending a lot of time you know, the reverse engineering stuff, I was spending a lot of time really focusing on on Medtronic pumps, I realized that there were a bunch of devices. And I thought about the network of each kind of device needing some code to work with it. And I had a piece of code for every type of device. And so I was focused kind of on that making sure that I was framing Well, well formed questions, putting them out there saying here's a project just to talk to the Omnipod. Here's a project just to talk to the Dexcom. Here's a project just to talk to the pump. And then here's the thing that can kind of use them all. here's here's some of the title stuff. And so I didn't actually have access to CGM myself, I didn't actually have access to a lot of working stuff. What I had access to was my own research on my pump stuff, which was my main focus and then I had already started networking out and contacting Layne and these other folks, you know, Scott Lybrand and Dana Lewis, meeting all these other folks, and not just in diabetes, you know, for example, Dave bronkart and Hugo compost, I met them going around doing things, advocacy work on data access and privacy and sharing, I would meet those folks and connect them also to the diabetes folks saying, not only is this a unique problem in diabetes, getting your access to your data in healthcare is a problem in other disease states as well. And now what I've come to learn is not only does it affect healthcare, it affects other industries as well. It affects the agriculture industry. Right now, there's a huge issue in the agriculture industry, with farmers not being able to digital tractors and farmers not being able to get their data off of their digital tractor and where it used to be just like the syringe and it used to be a mechanical pump. It used to be a simple mechanical device that anyone could learn about and do it themselves right in front of them, it was obvious how it worked. And that is one of the risks with the adoption of digital technologies. without some support. Without enough documentation, it may not be obvious how it works. So after that D data in the winter, spring started to come around the next year, and I wound up leaving tide pool around April. Now Brandon arbeiter from typo was my roommate at the time. And I remember that about a week after I left tide pool he actually came home with with a bag full of goodies, he came home with a new SIM card, a new cell phone, and he showed me his laptop. And he had all these emails with like source code attached and instructions and websites. And actually, it was kind of a big mess. But I was very excited because this was for the first time all of the pieces in one place. This was the legendary nightscout rig finally in my hands, so I knew exactly what to do. I helped him set up nightscout. I didn't have a working CGM at the time and setting him up with nightscout was actually what convinced me to start using a CGM again, because when I quit, I decided I'm never going to use a CGM. Again, it's not worth it for the discomfort and the quality of life until I can control the data until I can get the data off with nightscout. that possibility came true. And so Brandon came home with that rig. And I helped him set it up. And then I helped set up a bunch of other families. And I converted those emails and those attachments, I converted those into a set of webpages for the very first time, and organized all of the source code. Again, on GitHub, which is the social coding site, I organized all of those projects into well framed projects, the way that programmers would work with these things very, very natively. Very idiomatically. And so I put those up on the web on GitHub, and started calling people over to them. And I showed James wedding and Kate Farnsworth, and Christine dealtrack. Some of these folks, I showed them the new web instructions, and actually walked them through for the first time, once people were able to go on the web, and do a Google search and find it and get all of the instructions in one place. That's when the installs really, really really started taking off. That's when the Facebook group went from 100 to 1000s. And the rest is history right?   Stacey Simms  28:35 down. And this is probably a good time to just say that. I've spoken to several people from the the we're not waiting community, and one of them is Jason Adams, who tells the whole story of the Facebook group, and you know, that community and how that came to be. So we'll link that up for sure. and a bunch of other information. But I remember that too. And it just seemed like he was unbelievable to some as in like, wow, we can finally see this and can you believe we can do it, you know, ordinary people. And you know, you do need to, you know, get some help, but you can do it, you can do it. And then there were other people in the community saying, I can't believe we haven't been able to do this until now. Like I knew we could do this. Like, it was very funny to see the people who really understood kind of the back end of things, at least from my perspective. And once that ball started rolling, it seems like it was just moving really quickly. It was a very exciting time. Do you remember it as one?   Ben West  29:24 Oh, yeah, I mean, tide pool had a one of their global, they pull everyone from across the globe in the area everyone saw about once a year. And so I got to see a bunch of those folks again, and they were all hanging out. And I remember we were on Facebook just watching Facebook blow up. I mean, they're the posts were coming in, he and your grandson was watching this thing. We mocked up little videos of like, here's the next step that we're going to make an automated system with, you know, this is just the beginning and we didn't post it but we were just in awe of the energy that was coming. In behind the post describing nightscout. I mean, here we have what's essentially a webpage. And there's so much momentum behind this project that people were saying things like we're paying it forward, they were saying things like, we are nightscout. And I've never been part of a technology project where people start identifying as the project, I expected the conversation to change, I laid a lot of a lot of stepping stones in place, to enable the conversation to change that we can speak clearly, as people with needs that are unmet, here's what our needs are. But I did not expect people to identify that I am this products that really blew us away.   Stacey Simms  30:42 I'm gonna come back to that, because I think diabetes is very personal. And it was one of the few times where people felt like they not only had a stake in it, but they were also being heard. But I do want to ask you, we've done lots of episodes on nightscout and openaps. And please feel free to jump in if there are things that you would like to share. But you mentioned when we were prepping for this interview testifying for I don't even know how to say this testifying for the 1201 federal DMCA exemption hearing.   Ben West  31:08 Yeah, that's right, is that? Well, like I said, one of the things I started to learn, when I started talking to people, what I would code switch into the data governance language, I started to find that there's other people working on this. There's academics, there's people in other industries, and there's legal scholars. And it turns out, FDA has a role in a lot of what we do in diabetes. But it turns out, there's other regulators that deal with other parts of life, the Library of Congress regulates certain things. And one of the things that they do is they manage these 1201 hearings, our carve outs are ways for the public to say, here's this regulation that exists. But I want to testify to get relief from the regulation that does exist, and the regulation in question, this concept of DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and in part of that regulation, has to do with the technical protections, the technical protective measures that manufacturers place inside of their devices, and the consequences for attempting to manipulate that device, potentially to overcome such a protection. Now, the issue here is that this is a technical means that some firms use to make it difficult to get the data on a very practical level, the one of the things that they can do is they can say, well, we're putting a technical measure in place so that only authorized users can get access to the data. who's an authorized user? Well, the manufacturers, of course, is the patient an authorized user? Well, maybe maybe not. Right? That's kind of the debate that's still playing out to this day. One of the exemptions that I went to testify for was that for medical devices, if what you're seeking to do is to get a copy of your own data, there should be no penalty for doing that. And that exemption was granted. Pardon my ignorance,   Stacey Simms  33:03 is that exemption granted for you? Or was that something that was more blanket for   Ben West  33:07 the Americans, all US citizens,   Stacey Simms  33:09 you think that would be front page news? That's amazing. Very, very cool.   A lot more ahead with them. But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dexcom. If you are a veteran, the Dexcom gs six continuous glucose monitoring system is now available at Veterans Affairs, pharmacies in the United States, qualified veterans with type one and type two diabetes may be covered. picking your Dexcom supplies up at the VA pharmacy may save you a lot of time to connect with your doctor for more information. Dexcom even has a discussion guide you can bring with you to your doctor, get the guide, find out more about your eligibility go to dexcom.com slash veterans. Now back to my conversation with Ben West.   What is nightscout? Right now? No, the commercial offerings have changed a lot. He was title submitting loop to FDA. What is nightscout as a service offering right now or is that even the right word offering?   Ben West  34:20 So do you want to know about nightscout as a service, or just nightscout? What is nightscout as a whole?   Stacey Simms  34:25 What is it right now? What is it? Like? How do you define it right now? Because it's not the rig? Is it still right? It's not like you're plugging into this into that. I mean, what how it's kind of changed in the last few years. So I guess I'm not sure what I'm asking. I pardon my ignorance there. But   Ben West  34:39 when you bring up the rig, you say what is your asking what is nightscout? right now and you mentioned, you know, for example, it used to be the rig.   Stacey Simms  34:46 That's what I think it was nightscout is I think of people printing a case for this for that and then and then you got to be careful because the wire might break at some point.   Ben West  34:55 Sure. So I think of nightscout as kind of two things. There's the philosophic Typical version of nightscout. And then there's like a piece of software that also exists, right? So and what I mean by that is there's the nightscout ecosystem, right. And this includes the people that are using nightscout. It includes the coaches, the school nurses, the teachers, the clinicians, the parents, the guardians, the caretakers, and the patient's themselves, right. And so there's this thing, that is the network of nightscout. And then there's a piece of software. And in fact, there's a whole bunch of pieces of software and devices, right. So there's the cgms, whether it comes from Abbott, or from Lee Ray are from Medtronic, right? There are the insulin pumps, whether they come from Medtronic or maybe Tandem or maybe Insulet, in the United States. And then there's other kinds of devices, too. There's like cloud devices, right? So some of your Dexcom data goes to Dexcom Cloud, some of your Medtronic data goes to carelink, Medtronic cloud. And so nightscout, there's a lot of ways for data to exist in the world of devices, connected devices that data can come from. And then there's this central hub in the cloud. And that's the piece that usually I think of as nightscout. When people say, Oh, I'm going to go file a bug report on nightscout, or developer says, I'm going to go fix a bug on nightscout. Really, they're talking about this cloud native piece of software that draws the graphs that provides you with a web page, the API that all of the other devices then connect to, right. So that forms when all when you have multiple devices that are talking to nightscout, all of a sudden, you have this nightscout network. And the thing that we think of as nightscout is what I like to think of is that cloud piece of software right in the center of it all.   Stacey Simms  36:44 So this might sound silly for someone who hasn't used it, or doesn't really understand what is nightscout. in that setting, as you mentioned, what is it used for? How does it help somebody with diabetes,   Ben West  36:58 one thing a lot of people talk about is data governance, being able to control your data. And that's certainly true, I have found that the most profound thing I have found is that it's really this, this concept of sharing, when you invoke the buddy system in your life, you know, as you travel through life, is it during the transitionary events, when you start a new therapy, when you have a special day, and you want some help, and that these are the kinds of things that people are sharing, it used to be when we first started nightscout, almost 10 years ago, seven, seven years ago, it was all about let's at least share what we know about the past. You know, let's share the alerts and alarms. Those are retrospective, right, you have to have past data to generate an alerting alarm. And that's kind of like current and past data. And people would use that the classic use case there that that made the news was when parents go to the office, and the children are going through the school day, and maybe going through mixed authorities and different just different realms of concerns across as they travel through life. What we have found since then, is that it's not just the retrospective data in terms of keeping current that people want to share. It's actually every aspect of diabetes. Surely, if you had the technology and the power, to share your alerts and alarms with me, surely you can share the tools to help me prevent those alerts and alarms. That's where the future is going is we're gonna see services that allow sharing, not just alerts and alarms, but managing every aspect of diabetes as we transition through every phase in our lives. So this is a really exciting time to be in because nightscout is years ahead of some of the big vendors here, providing feature sets for all of those things.   Stacey Simms  38:47 It seems like that's a good segue into medical data networks. Can you talk about what that is and what the goal is? Sure.   Ben West  38:54 So I've always been interested in this concept of the power of networks. That's one of the things that really got us interested as we started building out the nightscout ecosystem, making sure that we could talk to connected insulin pumps, making sure that we could talk to connected CGM, and talking to people about the data governance and the technology required to do that. In the past, I worked for a company called muraki. They made software defined networking. And that means if you've ever used Wi Fi in a public space, like Pete's coffee, or an airport or something like that, my software has protect your privacy, govern your use of the network govern the speeds at which you can use the network even govern which sites you can visit. And this is very complex techie stuff, but we made a simple dashboard that allowed people to share the process of managing that experience. This is old hat for us. So we created this company medical data networks. What we want to do is wrap up and respect all these years of innovation that have happened in the DIY space and we want to make Set the norm. We don't think that any of this is controversial at this point, the idea that you'd have remote monitoring, the idea that open source would be a fertile ground for the innovative wetlands, right? Some people like to call it. And so that's part of what we're doing. And so now we're offering nightscout as a service. And we make nightscout. press button easy. And we're working with the FDA to make sure that we can operate it fully compliant.   Stacey Simms  40:28 That sounds to me like you're trying to offer kind of a DIY the nightscout for people like me who, when many others who were you know, reluctant to do DIY stuff? Is that what the service is? It's a Is it a paid service that I can kind of this is an awkward way to say, like commercialize or make simpler what nightscout has been?   Ben West  40:48 That's right. So we want to offer Nightscout as a service and reduce the barrier to entry, make the entire experience much more reliable, predictable and consistent. And we want to increase the benefits of remote monitoring for everyone, whether that's caretakers and parents or temporary guardians, or whether it's just people that just want to find their diet buddy on social media and share it with them.   Stacey Simms  41:10 Thank you. So tell me a little bit about what T1Pal   Ben West  41:13 is? Sure, I'd love to. So T1Pal is our first product from medical data networks. And it leverages all the experience that we had building nightscout. So T one path is Nightscout as a service. So you can think of it as the easy way, it's a new way to get started with nightscout. And it eliminates all of the server and database administration and DIY craft. So it makes it as easy as any other platform where you simply sign up, you pay for your subscription, and you have access to all of the benefits that Nightscout brings.   Stacey Simms  41:46 Is it on the app store? Is it something that people buy? How do they get   Ben West  41:50 Dutch the website to one call.com, you   Stacey Simms  41:52 can go on your browser. Either commercial products have kind of caught up I mean, I can remote monitor my son with a Dexcom. And you know, t slim or Tandem has an app that is on my son's phone. And I guess eventually I'll be able to see that Omni pod is sharing more, what makes this one better?   Ben West  42:11 Well, there's a lot of things. One is the if we go to the connectivity piece, right, this idea of interoperability, and the idea of bring your own device, when we talk about sharing, there's a the base level that I start with is bring your own device I want to share with myself, I want to share I have this Samsung or Apple or whoever created a brand new thing, you know, last week, it's a shiny new thing, I want to go get that and bring that into my therapy, that's going to be part of my system. Now, that's really tough for a lot of these vendors I've been just I've been it's ago, I was looking at a brand new error that someone posted that I've never seen before on, you know, a Dexcom app. And it says it's incompatible in some brand new way. So this idea is really tough for the classic manufacturers who developed these really austere quality systems, right, and those quality systems control for change in the system. And the idea is you want to control your own destiny, and eliminate any possibility of variation. And so in a lot of these systems, what that means is we're going to test on exactly these versions. And anything that we add to that means increased workload that we have to go test. And so we create these haves and have nots. In a world that moves as fast as the one that we're living in where bring your own device, bring your own connectivity, this is the norm. Now, I think the industry, we just need more help, we need more players that are experts in this kind of connectivity in this kind of interoperability to make to satisfy the customer's demands. That's really the area that we specialize in is this idea of Bring Your Own Device connectivity. So that's one and then the other is this idea of sharing a lot of these systems, they're built for that initial use case that we discussed, where it's really oriented around the concept of the nuclear family. And you we know you have exactly these many family members and exactly these roles, and that's the way it's gonna work. Or if you want something else that starts to not work very well. You know, if you want the school nurse to have access during school hours, that doesn't really work very well. The idea of sharing, does it really require installing patient? Or is there a web app that works on any device? Those kinds of things, I think Nightscout still has a really compelling advantage. In addition to all the features, she talked about all the watches, there's more than 20 watch faces just for Garmin for Nightscout.   Stacey Simms  44:44 Right and that's just the one brand Garmin there's the all the other ones the Apple Watches smart, the Google wears, etc. fitbits when you see their watch faces, you still need your phone, right? Has anybody gone direct from Dexcom transmitter to phone yet is that maybe some You're working on?   Ben West  45:01 Oh, no, I, I can't say much about that.   Stacey Simms  45:03 Can you confirm it's really hard because that's what I hear from my friends in the DIY space that I've been bugging for five years about this.   Ben West  45:10 What I will say is that this idea of interoperability and connectivity, the idea that you're actually operating a network networks and decentralized systems operate on fundamentally different rules than closed systems that are composed of one unit. And device manufacturers specialize in kind of making these one units or boxes of units at a time. And they fill the shelves with those units, this mode where you start operating in a network with multiple devices that are connected, and you have decentralized emergent behaviors, this is a difficult area. So a lots of technologists that I've worked with agree that nothing's impossible, it's all software, we can make it do anything. But it does require willing participants that are collaborating.   Stacey Simms  45:54 One thing that I have found of talking to you over this time is you're very generous towards the commercial systems, you know, there is no, and I think this is very genuine, there's no bashing, you're not trying to put anybody down, it seems to me and you can correct me if I'm wrong here, this is how I feel. So maybe I'm projecting that there is a really important place for these commercial systems with their very, you know, big, you know, simplicity, they have to be able to be used by a vast majority of people with diabetes, they have to be understood by clinicians. But there is this also really, really important DIY focus that we've seen over the last almost 10 years now. And I do think that I wish there was more cooperation, but they are almost complimentary. And when they're both needed, am I off the mark there? Or am I kind of reading between the lines that you may feel a similar way?   Ben West  46:42 I agree completely. Stacy, what we have is a market full of people with this inhumane disease, right. And this inhumane disease demands all kinds of things on our time and our resources. And because it's inhumane, there's a lot of needs. Now, these companies solve problems in consistent and reliable ways for people. And that's what we need, we need to all as a market, we need a functional market that's working efficiently. That's providing high fidelity health care that provides a reasonable return on investment in terms of the fidelity of care, the more resources that we spend health care and wellness, we should be seeking a return that yields the kind of fidelity commensurate with the spend, right. So in diabetes for a long time it was you could go try and try and try. And you could try as harder and harder and harder as you'd like, a day to day may not be the same, you may not get the same results. And so trying harder is perceived as not worthwhile. Because there's no feedback loop that provides the yield that's required. I think that what we have is a world that's changing with technology really, really fast. And we have an ethical imperative to use that technology in humane and equitable ways. I open sourced all of this software when we got started, because for me, that was part of this, the scientific methodology of it all is someone else should be able to take this software and debug it audited, etc. That was a really important working principle. For me. That's exactly what we need is we need a working process and all of these domains, we need innovation happening. And we need a pipeline that can deliver the benefits of those innovations in an efficient way to the most number of people possible, as quickly as possible. And why? because as we know, this condition, this intensive insulin therapy is just an inhumane condition, it demands too much. And so I'm imagining a world where we can work together, we can have a bolus free up lane free therapy, we can have Bring Your Own Device connectivity, and have full remote control, we can have the supercomputers and the the networks and the people that are connected to our devices and our data work in a collaborative way to prevent repeated hype hyperglycemia repeated insulin reactions, and we can use that data equitably and humanely to deliver high fidelity healthcare. And   Stacey Simms  49:08 that's the vision. You've talked about diabetes 2.0. Is that what you're referring to?   Ben West  49:14 Well, that's an idea. I've been workshopping. I'm hesitant to use the numbers for all kinds of reasons. I have talked to people, not just children and parents, I have now talked to people that have had type 1 diabetes for 40, for 50 years. And they are telling me that this network effect that we have created is one of the most powerful things that's that's happened in their lives. I don't know how to respond other than to try to do more. We've got feedback now from parents and children from people in their middle age and from people that are now experienced 4050 years with diabetes, telling us that this has had such an impact that everyone This should be the standard of care for everyone. And I think When we look at what we're doing today, we're still in the early days, we still haven't really optimized for the next gen system where people are really living their lives really free of the blame and stigma. You don't have the blame for getting a bolus wrong, or for carb counting wrong. Because either because you can share it with someone, you can share this complex dosing decision as it transpires right, you can share it with your buddy, you can share it with an expert you choose, you can share it with someone you trust on demand, or someone could do it for you. That's what we're seeing it for a lot of these parents in school, now it's run day, or it's Testing Day, and the parent can manage all of that stress remotely. That's where we're going even with automated systems. That's what we're seeing. Because the demands as you travel through life, the demands change, and sometimes it's fine to coast and let the machine handle it. Sometimes it's necessary to find, invoke the buddy system and find a friend. Yeah, you know, you've   Stacey Simms  50:57 mentioned a couple times now bolus free blame free. Can I ask you just to kind of dig in on that a little bit more, because I love that concept of if you aren't deciding to give yourself insulin for a meal or for a high, if you can't mess it up? How can you feel bad about it? And I think when you're an adult with type one, or if you're a parent making decisions for your children about this, this guilt, this mental health part of it is so overlooked.   Ben West  51:22 You're so right, Stacy, I call this the onus to bolus Yeah, the onus to bolus so what we've done is we've made out of necessity, we have a system of intensive insulin therapy that requires multiple daily injections. That's been the standard since the introduction of insulin. And then more recently, continuous subcutaneous insulin injection, right? See a society that's classic pump therapy for a brief while we saw the introduction of what's called sensor augmented therapy, sensor augmented pumps, which is where you pair the glucose readings with the insulin pump. And then more recently, we have the introduction of these automated insulin dosing systems, hybrid, full, etc. What all of these systems do is they help address the symptom of diabetes, which is high, uncontrolled glucose. And insulin is the mechanism that we have to bring that glucose back down and under control. It's amazing that this works at all, I sometimes just marvel at how incredible it is that we can manually take this missing hormone insulin, and just dump it in the body almost anywhere, it seems. And it works in the sense that it does provide this temporary relief of controlling that glucose, as we know that balance is extraordinarily difficult, because it is our responsibility to get that right. What happens is, if you get it wrong, it's kind of your fault, especially if you've been given a calculator where your job is you just have to put in the right number. And you know, the calculator will spit out the right number for you. And now it's your job to carb count, or count the number of fat and then deduct the fat and link out the number of fiber and the deductor fiber. And then by the way, for the delay, you know, due to other effects due to the fat, or any alcohol on board, anything like that, or because of sickness or you know what, maybe not feeling well. And actually, you lose your carbs, right? after you eat and you lose the carbs, it just becomes so tricky. One to even know when it is you're going to eat to know how much it is you're going to eat. Three know how that's going to digest. And we could go on and on and on all day about the trouble with this thing. But the problem is, when the language comes up for how we talk about this, we talk about Did you get it correct? You know, we use the words like correction factor, we use the words like correction bolus. I've heard parents actually talk to their children and say go correct yourself. And I've never had that experience, because I was diagnosed in my 20s. But the experience I have had, and this was in my 30s, I was doing exercise in a class and I had an insulin reaction. And you know, I had to take a break out of the class, I really wasn't feeling well, right. And it's really, it's never pleasant when that happens for so many reasons. But one of the biggest is always you're just you're othered you're not part of the group doing the activity anymore. You're often in this weird thing. And often it's involving bloodletting in front of everyone, right? I mean, this is not good. And then so I'm having this conversation afterwards about, you know, here's my CGM. Here's my pump. And, you know, this instructor goes well, Oh, isn't that great? That is doing all that for you. Great. So the reasonable person when they see all of these devices, they're expecting it to do all of this already. Right? That's that's the reasonable person's expectation. I had to have a 15 to 20 minute conversation explaining, well, no, it doesn't really work like that. I have to take the CGM number, I have to guess if it's right. I have to get some blood to make sure. And then I have to do this thing. And then you know, I have to take the right I'm out. And the response right away, this still affects me was. So does that mean you just did up? When I explained how the mechanics works, the onus is on me the onus to pull this is on me to get it right. And the entire system around this is designed to make sure that it's not anyone else's fault. As it should be, it should not be anyone else's fault. If it's going to be someone's fault, it should be mine. But the entire system is designed to dock the way that you interact with the doctors, the therapy that they start you on is designed so that they're not going to kill you. They don't want to kill you. Yeah. And it's designed to just keep you alive, and they'll try to figure things out. You know, after that, let's keep you alive. First, the way that design happens in manufacturing with these vendors, I call it defensible design. It is designed so that they will not be held responsible for something going wrong. That's the way that it's designed.   Stacey Simms  55:53 It's interesting, because so many thoughts flashed through my head when you were talking about those things in terms of blame a lot of parents and I speak on this to try to get them to stop, but a lot of parents call the a one c visit to the endocrinologist their report card, you know, it's mom's report card. And that's a really tough way to look at this. But I understand why. And another thought I had was when we started with control IQ, about a year and a half ago now, I was just gobsmacked on how many decisions it makes it can make something like 300 decisions a day and how we were and I say we because you know, I mean, Ben, he was diagnosed at two. So I'm still going through the process of saying his diabetes, not our diabetes, so forgive me. But you know, he's a once he went down, his time and range went up. But it really showed me how there was no way for me as a parent of a toddler and a little kid and a middle schooler. And there was no way for him as an individual to keep up with that machine. And that machine couldn't even be perfect. And I got to tell you, well, it was frustrating to say okay, the machine can be perfect. It was so freeing to be able to say I had no chance, if that makes sense.   Ben West  56:58 That's why I chose the word inhumane stage, is when you see what it takes for success, you realize you didn't stand a chance. And we have to find ways other than blaming each other. We have to use technology and in this in this way to make this possible.   Stacey Simms  57:15 Thinking that way, then, let's talk a little pie in the sky here. Obviously, Dream stuff with technology isn't gonna happen next year, or maybe even the next five years. I don't know what the timeline is. But what do you want to see? I mean, can you give me some, and I'm going to put you on the spot, but maybe some concrete examples of how that bonus to bolus could be lifted?   Ben West  57:35 Well, there's, there's a number of ways to address this. You mentioned other technologies, other therapies, there's certainly so many capabilities, we're adding to our tool belt, whether that's new therapeutics, I've heard of people taking other hormones, other injections, supplementary injections, that that seems to really work. Well. For some folks, we've got faster insolence coming relatively soon, some folks are working on, you know, micro dosing, glucagon. And then there's there's other types of therapeutics as well. So there's all kinds of things it's really difficult to know, a lot of that is out of my wheelhouse. I'm a software person, I know how to manage cloud, we know how to do transformational services, digital transformation, right, we know how to manage really complex stuff, using technology to provide a collaborative decision making process, it's in the power of the web, or society as a whole. That's why I wanted to become a technologist and work on the web as a whole was this idea of the collaborative power of sharing. That's my big bet. That's the thing that I get really excited about, I see automated dosing systems are coming faster insulins are coming. And those are all great, they're going to be so profound and helping people. But at the end of the day, with these therapies, you're still facing exactly that you're facing a lifelong journey with other people with this experience. And my big bet is that this need for sharing is so fundamental that that's why sharing is being adopted in every part of software that we look at every piece of technology that we get first. It's like a solo experience. And then eventually, it becomes like a collaborative social experience. that's been true of a lot of different kinds of software. And I think that we're going to see the same thing in diabetes care that we'll see clinics that will embrace the digital technology, so that instead of having appointments once every 90 days, or once every six months or once a year, whatever it is that you're going to get connected to the people you trust in the experts you need just in time and on demand. So if you're someone if you're using one of these fancy pumps that's connected to supercomputer and connected to a network, there should be an agreement for how this is going to work. If you're going low. lifetimes per night. What is the pathway for someone to intervene for us to deliver the help that you need? Because I'm pretty sure no one wants to go for an insulin reaction for a sixth and seventh night. Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's some consent that can be arranged. There's got to be some design there. Right, where we're going to eliminate this. When I think about the remote overrides, and the overrides features that are happening right now we're, you know, we're playing around with things like sleep mode, things like exercise mode, those are dosing decisions. When you decide to invoke sleep mode, or invoke exercise mode, the algorithm is changing its dosing slightly, it turns out that all dosing decisions are just really, really hard. You can't turn on dosing. On exercise mode, when you start exercising, you have to turn it on hours ahead of time, right? Like those kinds of things. Maybe we could share access to those things. One of the examples that I've been learning about recently is, is this remote overrides where the teenager is doing testing, and it's stressful on test day, and your attention is supposed to be on taking the test. It's not supposed to be on managing diabetes, and in fact, playing around with diabetes devices, which is how it's gonna look like to the proctor to the school that you're just playing around with devices, that becomes an issue. Can you trust the proctor to handle these devices, etc? Well, guess what, with remote overrides this idea of remote controls and sharing your dosing decisions, that becomes a non issue. I've heard of parents and teenagers coming up with a plan for the day, okay, it's testing, here's what's going to happen. Here's the schedule we're going to go thro
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