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Ten key points to consider when choosing a new blood glucose meter
Thursday 9th February 2017
How do you choose the best glucose meter for your specific needs and what to avoid? Here are ten key things to consider before changing your meter.
1. Are the test strips available on prescription?
With increasing constraints being placed on NHS resources, health commissioners are always looking for ways to save tax payers money.
Although blood glucose meters are supplied free of charge to the NHS by most medical companies, savings can still be made by the NHS advocating the supply of meters with lower priced test strips. Because of this, not all test strips are available on prescription and others may be restricted depending on your type of diabetes.
Most NHS regions now restrict the availability of test strips, recommending only those test strips that cost the NHS £10 or less for 50 tests unless there is a clear clinical requirement for a meter that uses more expensive strips.
2. Does the meter look and feel good?
There is no reason why your blood glucose meter can't look good and give you reliable results as well. Unfortunately, with the pressure on reducing costs imposed by the NHS and health providers across the world, many meter manufacturers priority has been accuracy rather design aesthetics which leaves some meters looking embarrassingly 'boxy' and dated.
3. Do you want to keep track of your results with a phone App?
Some of the larger blood glucose meter companies have invested in developing mobile apps to make it easy to keep track of your blood glucose levels. Some of the apps can produce reports for your diabetes nurse and allow almost unlimited storage of results together with time, date, activity and meal markers. Many apps also automatically connect by Bluetooth to your meter, although this is usually restricted to the meter and app coming from the same manufacturer. Other apps can be used in manual mode where you simply enter the reading from your meter - this gives more flexibility on meter choice. Check to ensure that the app you wish to use is compatible with your meter and phone.
4. Is the meter accredited to the latest international standard, ISO15197:2013?
Remarkably, it is still possible to buy meters online that don't meet the latest ISO standard for accuracy and reliability. Test strips for these meters are no longer available on prescription and it is likely that your diabetes nurse will have moved you to a new meter with the required accuracy. It is essential that you check that any meter you consider purchasing not only has a CE mark but also is accredited to ISO15192:2013 (EN ISO 15192:2015 is exactly the same standard - just the European version).
5. Does the meter company have a dedicated UK website specialising in diabetes and a UK business address?
Most blood glucose meters are manufactured to a rigorous quality system ISO13485 and are able to offer long guarantees. But when you do need help it is important that you are able to contact the distributor easily. Most reputable companies will go out of their way to make it easy for you to contact them.
6. Does the meter company have a Freephone helpline staffed with healthcare professionals?
It is one thing for a company to advertise a helpline but who will you be speaking to when you phone or email? Will you be able to speak directly with a healthcare professional in the UK or end up in a queue at a call centre? Larger medical and diagnostics companies usually have quality systems in place (ISO13485:2016) as well as scientific and clinical professionals on site to quickly respond appropriately to enquiries from meter users and nurses.
7. Is the meter easy to set up?
All blood glucose meters are simple to set up. At most you will just need to put in some batteries and set the date and time. Newer models may have rechargeable batteries already installed and will sync automatically the date and time with your IOS or Android phone. One very useful feature is that some meters provide instant recognition of control solutions whilst others will ask for one or more buttons to be pressed before checking the meter with the control solution. Instant control recognition removes any possibility of the result for your control reading being misinterpreted amongst your glucose reading averages.
In the UK, blood glucose meters measure glucose concentration in mmoles/L. To avoid confusion, consider choosing a meter that is locked by the manufacturer to measuring in mmoles/L. Meters manufactured for use in the USA will measure in mg/dL which gives completely different results.
8. Coding, no coding and auto-coding
Some blood glucose meters still require a code to be manually entered when starting a new pack of test strips. These codes carry the calibration for the meter to match the characteristics of the particular batch of test strips. Other meters require a chip to be inserted that carries an electronic code. Most meters now are 'Code Free' which means that either each test strip carries their own coding or that they are manufactured to such a high quality standard that there is no significant difference between different batches of strips.
9. Blood sample size
Most newer blood glucose meters should only require a tiny blood drop of 0.5µL or less - check the specification on the manufacturers website. Obviously, the smaller the amount of blood required the better. For over 40 years scientists have attempted to develop a non invasive meter that can measure blood glucose without requiring a blood sample or penetrating the skin. Although some devices are in development, a fully non invasive meter has yet to provide the reliability required for daily monitoring of blood glucose levels.
10. Memory size
The memory should have sufficient capacity to allow you and your diabetes specialist nurse to identify trends in your blood glucose levels. Most meters allow 500 or more readings to be stored, the larger capacity the better. Newer meters that connect via Bluetooth to a mobile App can potentially store unlimited readings. It is important that the memory in your meter cannot be edited or deleted to comply with DVLA requirements.
Once a meter has reached its memory capacity the oldest reading is usually automatically deleted to make room for the newest reading.
Other useful features to look out for
Other features to improve reliability and ease of use will include; large, easy to read screen, reading averages; strip ejector: hypo, hyper and ketone alerts; algorithms to account for haematocrit, humidity and temperature variations; meal markers and insufficient blood alerts.
The VivaChek™ range of blood glucose meters are distributed in the UK by biotech company JRBiomedical who provide a nurse led customer care team of clinical, scientific and regulatory professionals as well as a full range of diagnostics for research into diabetes and other chronic diseases.
JRBiomedical provides meters free of charge to the NHS and VivaChek™ test strips are widely available on prescription throughout the UK. The Glucowell™ App available for Android and IOS phones syncs via Bluetooth™ automatically to the new VivaChek™ Smart meter and can also be used manually with VivaChek™ Ino and other meters to keep track of your blood glucose levels.
VivaChek™ is CE accredited according to the IVD Directive 98/79EC, manufactured according to ISO13485 and exceeds the requirements of the new ISO 15197:2013 standard for accuracy and reliability of blood glucose meters. In a recent survey, 9 out of 10 people said that they found the VivaChek™ Ino meter easy to use.
For further information on our VivaChek™ blood glucose meters or to enquire about an upgrade please see www.vivachekdiabetes.co.uk.