Diabetes Technology

With increasing research into diabetes technology, there are now more options than ever for devices to support you in managing your diabetes.

Whether it’s a flash glucose monitor, continuous glucose monitor or an insulin pump, the options can be a bit overwhelming.

Our diabetes educators have summarised the options available to help you to simplify diabetes technology and work out which might be the best option for you.

Diabetes technology is not necessary for everyone, it is simply another option in your diabetes management toolkit.

For individualised information and support speak to your diabetes health care team or contact the Diabetes SA support line on 1300 198 204.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring

In people with type 1 diabetes, the body produces little or no insulin.

A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a small wearable device that measures glucose levels continuously throughout the day and night.

A CGM consists of three main components

  • A sensor which sits just under the skin and measures the glucose in the interstitial fluid (the fluid around your cells). The sensor is usually worn on the arm or abdomen and a new sensor is required every 6-10 days depending on the device.
  • A transmitter is attached to the sensor and this is what sends the information to a wireless receiver, insulin pump or smartphone. The transmitter needs to be replaced every 3-12 months depending on the device.
  • The receiver is what allows you to see your glucose data. The receiver can be a separate device, or the information can be displayed on a compatible insulin pump or smartphone.

Because the glucose data is wirelessly sent to your receiver it can be programmed to sound alarms to alert you to glucose levels that are outside of your target range or glucose levels that are changing rapidly. It will also provide you with a trend arrow to show you whether your glucose levels are rising, falling or staying steady.

Most CGM devices still require some finger pricks for calibration or to confirm sensor readings, however it does reduce the number required each day. The more frequent glucose levels and trend arrows that CGM provide can assist you and your health care team in making treatment decisions and help to keep glucose levels within your target range. However, for some people CGM devices and the additional information they provide can be overwhelming and lead to information overload and alarm fatigue.

CGM devices can be costly, they are subsidised under NDSS for eligible registrants or can be purchased privately. If you are not eligible for the subsidy the cost of CGM can be up to $5000 a year. CGM is not usually covered by private health insurance.

Speak with your health care team about the pros and cons of continuous glucose monitoring and whether this might be an option for you. You can also contact the Diabetes SA support line on 1300 198 204 for more information.

Find out more about continuous glucose monitoring and the NDSS subsidy.

Download: Continuous Glucose Monitoring information sheet

Flash Glucose Monitoring

Flash glucose monitoring is similar to CGM, but rather than regularly sending a reading to your receiver, pump or phone, you need to scan the sensor to see your glucose reading. You can scan the sensor with a reader or compatible smartphone.

Flash glucose monitoring does provide trend arrows to guide your treatment decisions however does not provide alarms to alert you to changing glucose levels.

In Australia, the Freestyle Libre is the only flash glucose monitoring option. The sensor lasts for up to 14 days and is worn in the back of the arm. The reader can also be used as a standard finger prick blood glucose meter and can also measure blood ketones.

Flash glucose monitoring can also be costly. If purchasing privately it will cost up to $2500 per year. The Freestyle Libre is available under the NDSS subsidy for eligible registrants. Learn more about the Freestyle Libre NDSS subsidy.  

For more information about the Freestyle Libre, visit the Freestyle Libre website, speak with your diabetes educator or contact the Diabetes SA support line.

Insulin pumps

Insulin pumps are small battery-operated devices that hold a reservoir of insulin. They are worn 24 hours a day.

Insulin pumps are mainly used for people with type 1 diabetes.

The pump is programmed to continuously deliver small amounts of insulin into the body through thin plastic tubing known as the infusion set.

The infusion set has a flexible cannula that is inserted just below the skin where it stays in place for two to three days.

The pump will also deliver a surge of insulin to cover the rise in blood glucose levels that comes from food. By programming the pump with how much carbohydrate you are eating the pump will calculate the amount of insulin to give. The pump aims to mimic insulin production similar to what the pancreas does in people without diabetes.

There are a range of insulin pumps available in Australia. Speak with your diabetes health care team about the best option for you.

An insulin pump is not suitable for everyone. If you’re considering using one, you must discuss it with your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator.

Some levels of private health insurance will cover the cost of the insulin pump, check with your insurer for details.

Learn more about programs to access insulin pump therapy.  

The NDSS subsidises the cost of insulin pump consumables for eligible registrants. More information on insulin pump consumables is available on the NDSS website.

See the following websites for information on the different insulin pumps currently available in Australia:

Sharps Disposal

Disposing of sharps appropriately is very important. Used syringes, pen needles, lancets and introducer needles for pump infusion sets must be disposed of in a sharps container approved under Australian Safety Standards.

Sharps containers must be puncture proof and have a secure lid. These containers are usually yellow, come in a range of sizes and are available at Diabetes SA, as well as most pharmacies and some GP clinics or council offices. Diabetes SA provides a free service for members to dispose of sharps safely as do many pharmacies or councils.

Find more information on safe sharps disposal.