[ExI] Insulin pump (artificial pancreas)

Charlie Stross charlie.stross at gmail.com
Mon Nov 19 19:15:14 UTC 2012

Secondary point: you really want a medical device like this to be bulletproof! It's pumping insulin into you -- if something goes wrong it can potentially put you in a coma or kill you. 

I would be very wary of allowing an external interface such as an android app to control (as opposed to monitor) such a device. Given the prevalence of malware already afflicting in-hospital computer controlled appliances, and the risks entailed in software updates to such devices (which is why they tend to be overrun by malware -- they're running old, unpatched OS editions because you can't patch them without having to recertify the entire system as medically safe), why go looking for trouble?

A standard API to allow smartphones to monitor your insulin pump, graph blood glucose levels and flow rates, and so on, would be a good idea. But allowing unsecured external computers to control it? That's just asking for malware that holds you to ransom -- for your life!

-- Charlie

On 19 Nov 2012, at 18:09, BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 5:07 PM, Brent Allsop wrote:
>> What troubles me, is why is medical technology even worse?  For example, I
>> have an insulin pump (artificial pancreas) because I’m a type 1 diabetic.
>> Since this technology is far more than 10 years old, it is basically killing
>> me, compared to what it could be.  Instead of having an android app, that
>> displays the information on my nice new 720P resolution color smart phone,
>> it attempts to display it on a 64 x 128 pixel black and white LCD display,
>> that is basically technology from the 80s.  And this is only one of a
>> gazillion things that are killing me, compared to what it could be.
>> The other thing is, the crude monitoring system isn’t connected to the
>> insulin delivery system – i.e. no automated control.  So I have to do
>> everything myself – including making mistakes – that could kill me.  The
>> manufactures of the device could clearly lesson this risk, but of course,
>> such would expose them to risk of being sued – so they completely avoid
>> anything like that.  So, their basically happy to let me make mistakes and
>> destroy my life, as long as they aren’t providing anything that would expose
>> them to any risk.
> What you are requesting is a full Artificial Pancreas. This is a
> worldwide project and trials are now underway. You should be able to
> get one within a few years.
> <http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_pancreas>
> In the meantime, it sounds as though you should be able to get a more
> up-to-date insulin pump.
> JDRF says, Quote:
> The latest-model pumps have built-in dosage calculators that manage
> the complex diabetes math that you previously had to do yourself. This
> feature will enable you to program different basal insulin delivery
> rates for different times of the day, depending on changing needs. You
> can reduce the basal rate before exercise or change the rate at night
> to help prevent overnight lows.
> These pumps can calculate how much insulin is still working from the
> previous bolus dose. Some manufacturers include such additional smart
> features as programmable reminders and alerts, information download
> capabilities that allow you to save information to a computer to keep
> a record, a carbohydrate database (containing carbohydrate amounts for
> many foods to eliminate guesswork), variety in styles of infusion
> sets, and child lockout features.
> To learn more about what pumps can do, check out the websites of pump
> manufacturers:
>    http://www.animascorp.com/
>    http://www.delteccozmo.com/
>    http://www.disetronic-usa.com/
>    http://www.minimed.com/
>    http://www.myomnipod.com/
> ------------
> BillK
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