Medtronic suffering from the "Nokia syndrome"?

I just had a discussion with a fellow diabetic over whatsapp and he ended it with an interesting thesis: I think that Medtronic is going to end up like Nokia. They are in a fairly good advantage, but the innovations get zero points from me. When I’m downloading data over the Carelink, I feel like I’m being teleported into the Windows NT era, beginning of the milnenium. Even the pump display looks like the one in Nokia 3210 (he has a Veo). They are pushing alkaline batteries, despite the fact that the lithium batteries are 4 times better. The only thing they are changing is the look of the f***ing catether boxes.

And that got me thinking. My friend is totally right. I visited my diabetes nurse here in Luxembourg on Monday this week, which was the first time ever actually, since I’ve only been seing my endocrinologist since I moved down from Sweden in 2012, and she was persistantly lobbying for Medtronic. That would have worked if I hadn’t financed and tried both Medtronic Sof-sensor, Enlite, Freestyle Libre and now Dex G5, where nothing comes even close to Dexcom. When I showed my latest setup to her, she was not aware of it, as Dex is not available in this country due to the market being very small. The market is more or less owned by Medtronic & Bayer and Accu-Chek, i.e. Roche.
But let’s go back to Medtronic. I have been a user of their products since Feb 1998. I started with Minimed 507, then 508, then Paradigm - which indeed was a revolution. And then I have had 3-4 versions of Paradigm, now being on the Veo. The point being - nothing has happened design- or user interface- or tech integration wise since the Paradigm. That is some 15 years now. We are still using same infusion sets, still the same inserters, same reservoirs. The CGM sensor has received a small upgrade, but software-wise nothing has happened. Medtronic seems to completely have missed the smartphone era, touch screens, color screens, bluetooth, smartwatches etc, compared to Tandem T-Slim and Dexcom for example. Ok, we have the 640G now, but what is actually new? New design? Not nicer, not slimmer, not more discreet. It’s big, the screen is turned wrong way if you are looking from above (not in landscape mode) and for the love of God - it’s BIG. The smaller 1.8ml version is not available, it’s heavier… well at least they are keeping up with the smartphones there.
And then my nurse tried to win me over once again by saying, “have you read that they are going to release their smartphone app in Europe as well now”. Later on I reminded myself that she was talking about the Minimed Connect, which in my opinion is a lame, desperate, half done try not to lose the game completely. As far as I could read the additional piece of hardware you have to carry is a fail, the monitoring (following) function is a fail, the app functionality is a fail, no communication back to the pump is a fail and lack of smartwatch integration is a fail. To put it in Latin: summa summarum, it’s a fail.

So yes, I think that my friend is probably right. The market and the competition are not sleeping. The customers are not sleeping. The customers have access to something called Internet nowdays, where it’s possible to compare, to read opinions and reviews, to provide feedback. Unless a miracle happens during the coming year, the Medronic is going to fade out, close the shop. New, smaller, younger, more inventive and what’s most important companies that LISTEN to the consumers are going to show up and turn the old school producers upside down. Look at Tandem and learn. Look at Dexcom and learn. Imagine those two going together? They are both far from perfect - the paradigm connections are still superior to Tandem’s, the size of Enlite and LIbre are far better than Dexcoms, but these things seem to be something that can change quickly in these companies, like when they introduced the apple watch app in the Dex G5 app. Compare that with the Medtronic’s Minimed Connect where users have been crying for an update for 8 months now and the app is not even compatible with the latest iOS version! Sorry Medtronic, but I think it’s time to wind down.


So if I were going to invest in the future of diabetes…don’t buy Medtronic stock!

I think you’re right in some ways, but not sure you’re right about the time frame. Animas could be in the same (sinking) boat - the Vibe does integrate with the Drxcom CGM, but only the G4 and not upgradable. The interface improved only slightly from the Ping, but they also ditched the remote and integrated meter that so many Ping users like(d). I happen to like the Vibe, but mostly because it was the best option that I could get afford-ably, under the circumstances - I started with the now-defunct Asante Snap.

Asante was one of those young, innovative companies that listened to their customers and made improvements. I was extremely pleased both with the Snap and the direction their R&D was heading. They ran out of time/money and had to close up shop. Medtronic simply owned too much of the market, and they could not break in. (Note: I will GLADLY get a AP from Bigfoot Medical, based on the Snap and Dexcom, if I ever get the chance!)

When Asante folded, I had the choice of Omnipod, Medtronic or Animas. Roche offered no deal to Snap “orphans,” and the offer from Tandem still would have left me with well over $5000 in upfront cost that my insurance would not cover. I tried the Omnipod first, but was unhappy with it for a number of reasons. Since I already have a Dexcom G4, I tried the Vibe next and have stayed with it.

Will have to see what happens going forward, but that’s the state of things.

I have to chime in with my fellow Asante Snap orphan @Thas. I looked at a lot of options when Asante failed. The Tandem came the closest to something approaching the standards of user interface design in the rest of the digital world, but there were other issues about it for me, cost being one, and I ended up just going back to my Medtronic Minimed, which I’d held onto when I started on the Snap. A big part of my reasoning was that I had (then) another 2 years before the Minimed’s warranty was up, and I’d rather wait and see what comes along–i.e., stick with my pager-interface pump for now rather than get locked into any of the ones that are available now, all of which seem behind the curve. The Snap wasn’t perfect–occlusion sensor way too sensitive–but it was the closest to what a 21st C medical device ought to be. I’m really interested to see what Bigfoot does with it.

I have to agree. I still have the Medtronic pump, which is very reliable and accurate, but I changed to Dexcom. It is a world of difference.

I was very fond of my Nokia 232 I have moved on. Now I am an Apple fanboy and of course, I have a Dexcom Gen 5.

I generally share your thinking about medtronic. They enjoy a legacy share of the market that continues strong and I guess the market is difficult for new companies to join (Cozmo, Snap). I imagine Medtronic reps regularly contact doctor offices and this keeps their business model going.

I have the same thought. I was first exposed to insulin pump since coming to the US from Asia, and since then had been surveying the market - learnt about Animas, Omnipod, Medtronic and Tandem. I can see that Medtronic has a big team and in comparison Tandem is a newbie. But give a few more years, I am confident that Tandem will excel! I also just got my first insulin pump (t:slim G4) and just started using it!

I agree about the Tandem - I would switch to it today if they would only offer it in Europe. They are just too slow and will probably lose to a bigger, faster player due to that in the end.

Well I just got my Brand New …Nokia…
My medtronic was a few years out of warranty (think it is 7-8 years old) and still pumping along. Medtronic called the other day and talked me into getting a new one. It was the old familiarity that made me do it. I was not in the mood to re-learn 14 years of built up knowledge so as I read the manual I see I have almost the same exact thing I’ve had since I started with my first minimed back in '02.