The Newest in Blood Glucose Monitoring Devices
A review of LifeScans OneTouch Verio IQ, Telcare, and Abbotts FreeStyle InsuLinx.
by Adam Brown
The first portable home blood glucose meter (BGM) came to market 47 years after the discovery of insulin. In 1969, meters were the size of a brick, required large blood samples (over 10 microliters), took minutes to test, required coding/calibration, were not even close to having memory, used painful "guillotine-like" lancing devices, and had a number of interferences. Blood glucose meters, of course, have improved substantially since then. Some are small enough to balance on top of a strip bottle; others require blood samples as small as 0.3 microliters (about the size of pinhead); most require five seconds or less for test times; and lancing devices are less painful.
Despite obvious advances, most meters today seem clunky compared to consumer electronics like the iPhone. Fortunately, three new meters recently approved by the FDA may be closing the gap on a number of fronts. LifeScan's OneTouch Verio IQ, introduced in January, uses a helpful data analysis feature to automatically recognize high and low blood glucose patterns. Telcare's meter, launched in mid-February, incorporates cellphone technology to automatically upload blood glucose results to a web-based platform and mobile app. Finally, the FreeStyle InsuLinx, cleared by the FDA in March (its launch is expected in the coming months), brings a helpful touchscreen to the testing process. What follows is my n=1 patient experience with each of these meters.
LifeScan's OneTouch Verio IQ
- Low and high blood glucose pattern recognition
- Bright color screen, simple menus, and interface
- New, accurate strips with a clearer sample window and better blood drawing action
LifeScan's excellent OneTouch Verio IQ was approved in the US last fall. Its major highlight is its ability to recognize patterns of high and low blood glucose. After setting high and low limits (e.g., 80 mg/dl and 140 mg/dl or 4.4 to 7.8 mmol/l in my case), the meter will automatically search for high and low glucose patterns for every test. A "low pattern" means that in the last five days, the meter has measured at least two "low" test results at a similar time of day (within three hours). A "high pattern" is slightly different: the meter looks for three values over the high limit – although only results tagged "Before Meal" are included because the meter doesn't want to include high numbers caused specifically from food (blood sugars usually rise right after eating).
When the meter discovers a pattern following a test result, it immediately flashes a message. For instance, I received one that said: "Low Pattern – March 16, 12:30 pm. Looks like your glucose has been running LOW around this time." After I selected "Get details," the meter displayed the past glucose results associated with the low pattern.
I found this pattern-recognition feature extremely useful for a number of reasons. First, it gave me the alert message right after my test, providing instant, real-time feedback right after a low or high occurred. Second, the meter searched automatically, requiring no manual calculations or logbook checking on my part. Finally, the feedback guided me on what actions to take – instead of something like an average blood sugar, I was able to see the times of the day when my glucose was out of range. The meter also has a "Pattern Log" that can be accessed from the home screen, allowing previous pattern messages to be viewed at any time. One downside to the pattern tool was that the "High Pattern" only uses results tagged as "Before Meal." Although tagging only requires one button push following a test result, if you are in a rush and consistently forget to do this, you will not get "High Pattern alerts. "Low Pattern" results do not require any tagging.
Besides the pattern analysis, the Verio IQ also has a color screen that is easy to read in any light. I was also struck by the intuitive and easy-to-navigate user interface. Besides the previously described "Pattern Log," the meter only has two other menus: "My History" and "Settings." Navigating around the user interface requires just four buttons, making it difficult to get confused or lost in the Verio IQ menus.
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As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...