Choosing a diabetes glucose meter can be overwhelming. Even when you compare the American’s with Diabetes Association guidelines and the Food and Drug Administration (the agency in charge of testing and approving glucose meters) guidelines they differ somewhat.
Despite the differences, it really shouldn’t be that difficult to make an informed decision. Let’s take it one step at a time and work through the process.
The following list is a compilation of the ADA and FDA guidelines and is in no particular order. Every person’s condition is different, so some of the features you may need will be more or less important than someone else’s.
So, don’t buy a monitor just because your friend has the same one. Talk with your doctor and determine which fits your needs the best.
The Top 12 Factors for Choosing a Diabetes Glucose Meter
Factor 1: Accuracy
While my list is not in any particular order, arguably this factor is rightfully number one. If the diabetes glucose meter isn’t accurate, what good is it? Most new meters have good accuracy. Over time however, monitors can become less accurate so most meters should be tested monthly. There are typically two ways to test the monitor (although check the manufacturer’s guidelines).
First, a control solution can be used. The meter may come with the solution, or you can buy it at most pharmacies. Essentially, the meter should read the solution at the required level specified for the solution. Another way to test the accuracy is by testing your blood with the meter at your doctor’s office and then compare this result to the result you get from the laboratory test your doctor takes. Results should be within 15% or so of each other.
Factor 2: Cleaning and Maintenance.
Some people are meticulous and thrive on tinkering and maintaining everything they own. Others would rather do something else with their time. Deep down, you know which type of person you are! Glucose meters need to be cleaned and maintained or else they can deliver inaccurate readings. Also, how long does the battery last and are the batteries easily obtainable? Make sure you know what the manufacturer requires for cleaning and maintenance to make sure it matches with your natural tendencies.
Factor 3: Coding.
To code or not to code, that is the question. Traditionally, meters required the user to enter a certain “code” depending upon which type of test strips you used. Telling the meter what type of test strip is used allows the meter to deliver accurate results. Otherwise, the readings could be way off. Some newer meters no longer require a code.
Factor 4: Ease of Use.
I have touched upon this above for some aspects (e.g., cleaning, maintenance, coding). Other ease of use factors for choosing a diabetes glucose meter include the amount of blood required, time for results, steps to get a result, etc. After looking at all the factors in this list, you will need to decide which “ease of use” factors are most important to you.
Factor 5: Meter Expense.
Diabetes glucose meter expense can run the gamut. There are a lot of deals out there. You should look at specials being run by manufacturers and retail stores. You also need to speak with your doctor and insurance company, as you can often get discounts, if not free meters.
Factor 6: Test Strip Expense.
If you have ever bought a printer for your computer, you know it isn’t the printer cost that gets you. It is the ink cost. The reason that great printer was so cheap, if not free, was because they kill you on the ink cost, compared with other choices. Well, the same is true with glucose meters and test strips. Based on your usage, make sure you figure out how much each strip is costing you. For example, if you use 4 strips a day and you expect to use this meter for 2 years. Figure out your cost for the lifetime of the product. The results may surprise you!
Factor 7: Test Flexibility.
Pricking the same place on your body day after day can get a little tedious, if not downright painful. Recent meter advancements allow for “alternative site testing.” This means you can take blood samples from areas such as your forearm or thigh, not just your finger tip. Not a bad feature to consider for your next diabetes glucose meter.
Factor 8: Language.
Some meters have voice instructions that guide the user through the process. Other meters provide audible Spanish instructions. If you have trouble reading, or Spanish is your primary language, this feature may be right for you.
Factor 9: Record Keeping.
So, you’ve pricked your finger 500 times, what does it all mean? Well, it depends, but it will mean a lot more if you keep good records. Seeing how your blood sugar responds over time based on certain factors (e.g., exercise, foods, meals, stress, etc.) is helpful for you and your doctor to manage your diabetes. Most meters store several hundred test results, but this information usually needs to be supplemented with information like what you ate that day. Many people opt to keep a written log or journal. This is easy, cheap and adequate. Some newer meters allow you to upload information to a computer program. You can add other information like what you ate, etc. The results can be graphed and tracked very easily. Look out for the cost, though. Sometimes it is free and provided by either the meter manufacturer or your doctor. Other times there is a cost.
Factor 10: Result Speed.
Most diabetes glucose meters provide results in less than a minute. Others do it in less than 5 seconds.
Factor 11: Blood Sample Size.
As long as it is accurate, I am of the opinion that less is more in relation to this factor: All things being equal.
Factor 12: Meter Size.
Does size matter to you? Most new meters are fairly compact. Nonetheless, make sure your meter will fit where you want to keep it, such as your purse, certain back pack pocket, etc.
There you have it, the Top 12 Factors to consider when choosing your next diabetes glucose monitor.