While Dexcom reports that interruptions in the service are mostly under control, many customers are critiquing the company's poor messaging of the issue, which they say could be fatal.

Weekend server overload brings down Dexcom's CGM alert feature, raising alarms among parents

By Dave Muoio
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Dexcom continuous glucose monitor users and their caregivers found themselves in the dark this weekend when a key monitoring feature ceased to function with little to no warning.

The feature, called Dexcom Follow, transmits an alert when a CGM user’s blood sugar reaches a dangerous level and is often used by parents monitoring their children’s condition. When unexpected issues brought down the service late Friday night, many users found themselves in a panic the next morning when they realized a major blood sugar event could have gone unnoticed.

Dexcom wrote in an update yesterday afternoon that the Dexcom Follow service had been “restored to near normal performance.” However, its most recent update (posted at 10:50 p.m. PST yesterday) acknowledged another “brief service disruption” that it says has since been resolved.

Dexcom also noted a less common issue throughout the weekend that kept some users from logging into their Dexcom G5 or Dexcom G6 app. For all of these issues, the updates urged customers not to delete and redownload their apps, and warned that doing so could cause the CGM app to not function properly.

“Early on Saturday morning we became aware of an issue with Dexcom Follow. Since then, our teams have been working around the clock to address it,” the company told MobiHealthNews this morning in an email statement. “Here’s what we know so far. Our Dexcom servers became overloaded, which caused the Follow feature to stop working for some users. In addition, some users experienced log-in issues. We did not release any updates or changes to cause this issue, which has made the investigation more complicated.” 

WHY IT MATTERS

High and low blood sugar events are dangerous, especially among those with diabetes who rely on caretakers to identify and manage changes in their condition. While many who posted about the issue on social media acknowledged the ways in which Dexcom’s monitoring technology and alerts have made their lives easier, these outages highlight the impact unexpected tech issues can have on a supposedly automated system.

“I understand tech issues happen and I’m so grateful for Dexcom! But I woke up in a panic at 6 a.m. after I realized the share app went down and I hadn’t received a single ‘no data’ notification. No alert, nothing,” one parent wrote Sunday on Dexcom’s Facebook post detailing the outages. “My son went unattended from 1 a.m. [to] 6 a.m. A bit terrifying and unacceptable.”

This lack of in-the-moment communication from Dexcom was by far the most frequent critique from users, who reported being unaware of the outages anywhere from a few hours to multiple dozens.

“Most parents aren't upset about having to do more checks or get up in the middle of the night. … What is upsetting is the ridiculously long delay in Dexcom updating or notifying anyone that they were having an issue with their technology, especially considering that it took place when many children were going to bed or in bed already,” another parent commented on Facebook. “These are our CHILDREN. We will do anything for them, late nights, disrupted sleep, extra vigilance, AND call out a company, who is very much a part of our children's daily lives and health management, who fails to communicate in a reasonable time period.”

Dexcom has acknowledged the shortcomings in its alert messaging over the last few days and said that it will be addressing these concerns along with the system’s technical issues going forward.

“This is an unfortunate but isolated event for Dexcom. It has revealed some areas for improvement, both with our system and in how we communicate with our users,” the company said in its email statement. “Once we have fully solved the issue and understand the root cause, we will follow our standard assessment procedure to learn from what happened and help prevent issues like this from happening again. Additionally, we are committed to creating a more optimal customer communication experience moving forward.”

THE LARGER TREND

The holiday weekend was a bump in the road for a company at the forefront of digital diabetes management. Dexcom has reported higher and higher CGM sensor sales during its 2019 quarterly reports, and just a couple months ago saw an updated version of its system approved by the FDA.

Then again, it hasn’t been the only CGM system facing some issues as of late. A class two device recall posted by the FDA last month outlined an issue among Senseonics’ Eversense systems that caused a small number of its sensors to stop functioning prematurely.