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Partner Perspectives on Closed Loop Systems

Esti Iturralde, PhD, Molly L. Tanenbaum, PhD, Diana Naranjo, PhD, Korey K. Hood, PhD


Objective: Closed loop automated insulin delivery systems have the potential to transform diabetes management. Partners and relationships will be increasingly affected by these innovations. We examine current understanding of the partner’s role in type 1 diabetes (T1D) management and technology, and provide an example of how to elicit partners’ perspectives in technology research.

Research Design and Methods: We conducted a literature review and a small focus group with the partners of participants enrolled in a 5-day hybrid closed loop (HCL) clinical trial. Couples’ questionnaire ratings of diabetes-related distress and hypoglycemia concerns were described.

Results: Partners play an integral and often helpful role in managing diabetes. They also report significant diabetes-related distress and fear of hypoglycemia, which have implications for relationships. Closed loop systems offer potential benefits such as hypoglycemia prevention and partners’ online access to glucose data (“remote monitoring”). However, disruptive alerts, technical glitches, maintenance tasks, device size, and other drawbacks may strain partners and relationships. A partner focus group elicited several novel themes. Partners gained valuable insights about T1D from remote monitoring and identified hypoglycemia prevention as a major benefit. For all partners, hypoglycemia worries decreased during system use. However, partners also cited vicarious frustrations with the system, concerns about remote monitoring disrupting couple communication, and needs for technology-specific partner education.

Conclusion: Closed loop systems stand to affect partners and relationships. As researchers continue to design closed loop systems and devise their integration into standard clinical care, it will be vital to assess partner perspectives to increase satisfaction and success with this technology.

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