Q: I’d like to buy a new meter to test my blood sugar and don’t know which one is best. How do I decide which meter to buy?
A: First of all, let us set the record straight! There is no one meter that is “best.” Choosing a blood glucose meter is a very personal decision based on your own special needs and preferences. It’s a lot like buying a pair of sneakers. It must be a good fit.
Let’s look at some features to consider:
Test results with a meter should fall within 10% of the real value. For example:
If your blood sugar is 100, the meter may read between 90-110. This is an acceptable range of results within 10% of the “real” value. If your blood sugar is 200, the same 10% range would be 180-220. At 300, the same 10% range would be 270-330. This may sound like a big variation but the treatment for a blood sugar of 274 or 327 would be about the same.
How do you decide if the meter is accurate? Without conducting a scientific study with a laboratory, you will have to rely on the endorsement of people you trust such as your health care providers and recommendations from people with diabetes who are in good control. Choose a meter from a reputable company that offers a money back guarantee, a reasonable warranty period (at least two years) and a toll-free number for technical support with extensive hours.
Ease of Use
Meters of the 90’s should offer simple test procedures where the meter does the timing of the test and the “wiping” or removal of the blood for you. Keep in mind that the fewer steps there are, the greater the accuracy of the results. Several meters available do not require any cleaning. This helps eliminate yet another source of error. If you have to do more than turn the meter on, get the blood onto the strip and put the strip into the meter, you are doing too much.
Results should be displayed on a screen large enough to read and at least the last test should be stored in the meter’s memory. If you get interrupted before you get the result or forget to write it down, you can retrieve the last result. Some meters offer sophisticated memories that tell you up to 250 test results and record the date and time the test was performed. Some can print out charts and graphs. You can decide how useful this is.
Meters now come in various sizes and shapes that make it easier than ever to take it with you. If a larger size may keep you from taking the meter with you, strongly consider a smaller meter. You can also remove the meter from the manufacturer’s case and put it into something smaller such as a cosmetic case.
Meter prices are all very similar. Be sure to compare apples to apples. Some ads list prices before rebates, some after rebates. Read rebate rules and regulations carefully to make sure you qualify. Some require trade-ins of another brand, for example. Keep in mind that the cost of the meter is an occasional expense (hopefully once every few years), whereas test strips are purchased often. The meter price is not the big expense, the test strips are! That is why some companies offer meters with low purchase prices. They may not make money on the meter, but they get you as a test strip customer!
Try to purchase a meter based on accuracy and ease of use as priorities. A meaningful test result is the only way to monitor your diabetes control. Accurate blood testing is your key to success. Choosing a meter because it was on sale or a gift is a mistake. The better the meter “fits” your needs, the greater the chances you will test at least as often as your health care provider recommends.
If you want more information on blood glucose meters available, consult the Buyer’s Guide for Diabetes Supplies published by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and included each year in the October issue of Diabetes Forecast. Additional copies can be obtained by calling the Customer Service Department at 1-800-232-3472. The cost is $2.65 for ADA members and $2.95 for non-members.
Wishing you a sensible meter purchase! Write to me with your questions about diabetes for future issues of DIABETES HEALTH. I look forward to hearing from you
Jane Jeffrie Seley RN, MPH, CDE.
Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist, Beth Israel Medical Center,
New York City