A Review of Tandem's t:slim (Continued)
Part Two: Focus on Simplicity and Convenience
- Very simple menu layout, intuitive user interface, and fast navigation
- Bolus menu design
- Quick bolus feature
The marketing tagline for the t:slim is "touch simplicity," which is most evident in the device's user interface. The pump is very similar to the user interface concept and button design pioneered by the iPhone: 1) a touchscreen to use it; 2) a button on top that blacks out the screen and locks it; and 3) a button on the face of the device that immediately takes you back to the home screen at any time. Since the home screen is really the hub of the pump's software and the starting point to perform any action on the device, I really liked having a single button take me there immediately. It was much faster than on other pumps I've used, where you keep hitting a back button to exit a menu.
The Menu Design
I did not need to open the instruction manual to figure out the t:slim's menu layout, and the overall design made navigating through the pump quite fast. Taking a combination meal and correction bolus for 30 grams of carbs and a blood glucose of 165 mg/dl took me an average of nine seconds on the t:slim, compared to double the time (18 seconds) with the Medtronic Paradigm and nearly triple the time (26 seconds) with the Animas OneTouch Ping. I know a matter of seconds may not sound like a lot, but when you're bolusing multiple times a day (I take an average of six boluses per day), every day, that adds up.
The t:slim's home screen displays the most critical pump information: two large buttons called "Bolus" and "Options," a battery life indicator (in both percent and an icon), an insulin reservoir indicator (in both units and an icon), the time and the date, and insulin on board (IOB) in both units and time remaining. IOB is my favorite part of the home screen because I use it so religiously, and it's such a meaningful improvement for me over other pumps that only display IOB in units remaining and hide this vital information in a status menu.
The Bolus Calculator
Since bolusing is the most common interaction a user has with a pump, I appreciated that this was front and center on the home screen. Clicking the "Bolus" button immediately takes you into the bolus menu, where you can enter carbs and/or a blood glucose level if the carb calculator is turned on, or just insulin units and a blood glucose if the carb calculator is turned off. You can quickly override the calculator's dose by clicking a box at the top of the screen and inputting your own number of units. "Options" allows you to suspend insulin, set up profiles, load a new reservoir (what Tandem calls a "cartridge"), set a temp basal, and view history.
The bolus screen is a perfect example of how the t:slim's user interface is simple and convenient. The side-by-side, large block design makes it very clear what can be entered, while a running tally at the top totals the insulin dose. A tab at the bottom allows you to click and view the full delivery calculation in a nice vertical arithmetic layout. Entering a blood glucose value or number of carbs pulls up a touchscreen numeric keypad (like dialing a phone number), and cleverly, Tandem has included an addition sign that will tally the carbs from multiple foods. This struck me as a great addition considering how tiring diabetes math can sometimes be.
Extending and Quick Bolusing
After entering the information for a bolus, the final screen before delivery gives you the option of extending the bolus — this was just a toggle switch and was available for every bolus, unlike on other pumps where you must preselect an extended bolus before entering anything into the bolus calculator. The t:slim also has a great quick bolus feature that uses only the screen lock button on top of the pump. Increments can be in units of insulin or carbs, making the t:slim the only pump that offers either option for a quick bolus. I used this feature to program and deliver a bolus without looking at the pump (!) and to very quickly take a bolus without unlocking the pump screen and using the carb calculator.
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