The Dexcom CGM (continuous glucose monitor) has a new touchscreen receiver that's begun shipping over the past couple months.
The company released this new touch-activated receiver in early Fall with little fanfare -- not even a press release -- and began shipping the units to customers in October 2017; more users are getting their hands on them as the year comes to a close.
This is the first full redesign of the Dexcom receiver in five years, since the G4 model launched in October 2012!
Remember, that was when we said goodbye to the original oval-shaped receiver that came with the Dexcom Seven Plus and the earlier, first-gen Dexcom STS that only lasted three days. That had been the look of the Dexcom CGM since it hit market in March 2006.
While Dexcom has updated its smaller, rectangular receiver that resembles an iPod a few times since then (with data-sharing capabilities and Bluetooth that allows for the G5 to be updated remotely), this new touchscreen receiver really does give the CGM system a fresh look.
Do We Need a Receiver?
Of course, with the G5's iPhone and Android smartphone connectivity, many aren't even using a receiver with their Dexcom CGM at all these days, relying solely on the app (which sadly still isn't covered by Medicare). In fact, the new touchscreen receiver's display closely resembles the Dexcom mobile app.
The California CGM company tells us this new unit has been in their development pipeline for several years, and FDA still requires a receiver regardless of whether users can optionally control the system via iPhone app.
Here are the specs on the new receiver unit:
G5+ Only: The touchscreen receiver works with the Dexcom G5 system only (it does not work with the prior G4), and the company tells us users will be able to easily update it for integration with the next-generation G6 once that is approved and available at some point in 2018.
New Size and Orientation: Yes, the vertically-oriented screen is bigger (and therefore somewhat bulkier) than the old rectangular receiver.
New: (2.5 inches wide, 4+ inches long, .5 inch high)
Old: (1.75 inches wide, 3.87 inches long, .5 inch high)
While that works out to 40% larger in surface area, that's a bit misleading as it's only three-quarters of an inch wider if you hold both the new and old receivers next to each other in the same orientation.
Gone is the older circle button and navigation arrows, replaced with a single button on the bottom to turn it on and off. The touchscreen now covers most of the unit, compared to the older receiver with a screen display only stretching about half of the receiver's front.
Color Touchscreen: This is the big ticket item for this new D-device. And it's certainly helpful for those with vision issues. It's also nice that Dexcom has built in three levels of brightness to choose from -- "High, Medium, Low."
Warranties: If you want a new receiver but are still within that one-year warranty period of the non-touchscreen receiver, don't worry. You can buy it for a retail cash price. UPDATE: We confirmed with Dexcom at the end of 2017 that you can purchase a new touchscreen receiver for a $599 cash price, and you will need a new Rx for this. However, the company says that while it isn't discontinuing this older receiver, it's no longer providing the non-touchscreen receivers unless you specifically have Medicare FFS or a Medicare Supplement K plan.
Screen Unlock: Yes, there are safety measures built in. It has a One-Two button screen unlock that's required with a touchscreen-- similar to that of the Tandem t:slim pump touchscreen's screenlock buttons to prevent any "butt dialing" situations that smartphone users often experience. Dexcom tells us this was requested by user feedback in prototype beta testing. Sure, it can be a bit annoying, but it's what we're pretty much seeing across the board in this day-and-age of touchscreen medical devices.
Logging Additions: With this new unit, you can log exercise, insulin, carbs and other health-related items such as illness/ stress/ Low or High symptoms and even alcohol consumption. Just tap the little "running man" icon in the top right corner to pull up the new logging menu. That data will then be weaved into the CGM trend graphs, along with the daily calibrations (two are required by the FDA for this G5 system).
Alert Checks: You may remember was a whole recall issue with the older Dexcom receivers not properly giving audible alerts when they should for Low blood sugars. Of course Dexcom fixed that on the older receivers, and now the new touchscreen includes an auto-check function that lets users test the alerts to make sure they're functioning properly.
Charging Cable: Yes, you still need one, and with this new unit Dexcom is shipping bright green charging cables... because we all know how many cables we have scattered around the house that all look the same in boring black and are difficult to tell apart. Thanks for being in tune with this simple challenge and making the effort to simplify our lives with this user-friendly touch, Dexcom.
A CGM Naughty List?
While Dexcom tells us they haven't specifically finalized any plans for future updates to this touchscreen receiver, but they're always looking to improve their products. We do also hear from some in the D-Community that they've been told by Dexcom reps on the phone that the CGM company's keeping a list of items that could be improved in future iterations -- think of it like a "naughty list" of issues that CGM'ers would like to see changed. From what we've seen online in forums and social media, we can guess what some of those points might be:
- Too Much Range -- There should be a way to adjust the range so the screen doesn't just show 400 mg/dL and additional blank space. For people who never go above 250, that's just a waste of space.
- Screen Fades: Some say the screen blacks out too quickly. That didn't bother us, as it stays on for 30+ seconds, but it could be an item on the list to update.
- Clip Case: There isn't yet a clip case like the older receiver comes with -- something I personally would want, so I can wear the receiver on my belt just like I did with the older one. The small company Tallygear makes one that clips to the belt, but it's not the same. Dexcom does provide a silicon case in multiple colors (black, pink, blue), but that's pretty tight and you can't charge the receiver when it's on.
What's really nice is that this receiver will be web-updatable just like the most recent non-touchscreen G5 version, so new features could be offered in a remote update at any point once Dexcom gets regulatory approval. That's a very nice D-tech feature so we don't have to wait for a brand new piece of hardware.
Overall, we like the new look, and despite the size change, we think it's a step forward and not backward! Obviously, opinions and Your Diabetes (Opinions) May Vary.
Can't wait to see what's next from Dexcom, as we head into 2018 and toward future generations of CGM systems.