For the newly diagnosed person, choosing a blood glucose meter is no simple task. If you walk down the glucometer aisle of any pharmacy, you’ll see at least 5 different brands and probably 20 different styles of glucose meters. Knowing some basic features to use as a basis for comparison is helpful. Blood drop size, cost of meter and cost of strips definitely covers the basics, but there are also bells and whistle features (memory, syncing to a smartphone, downloading ability, etc.). In addition, some meters allow “alternate site testing,” meaning that you can use somewhere besides the fingertip (think less painful site) to get a blood sample. The extra features don’t affect the basic function of the device, but may be important to you.
Don’t all glucometers get the job done? Yes and no. The devices all go through an approval process, but the exact accuracy of the meter can vary. New guidance from the FDA states that the standard for new meters being approved is that 95% of meter readings must be within 15% of the true value to be considered accurate. In another review, the Diabetes Technology Society published results to their surveillance program evaluating the accuracy of meters. Only 6 meters on the US market earned their rigorous seal of approval.
Is that 15% range a big deal? It can be. If you are using your glucometer reading to dose mealtime insulin or calibrate a continuous glucose meter, you certainly want the highest level of accuracy. If you are not using the results for insulin dosing, but just monitoring general trends in your sugars, a meter that didn’t make the top 6 list would probably be adequate.
Beyond accuracy, there are a few places where meters can differ. Your preferences play a role in the selection process.
- Blood drop size – The size is measured in microliters. Some glucometers require a tiny amount of blood, while others need more. The smaller drops of blood are easier and less painful to obtain.
- Memory – If you don’t have a way to sync the meter data, you may want one that keeps the values right there in the meter. The storage ranges from 100 to more than 1000 readings, and will calculate averages based on date ranges.
- Vision impairment – Find a meter that has a larger display or one that will speak your reading out loud.
- Alternate site testing – using a location other than your fingertip to get a blood sample
- Technology – downloading reports, sending reports to your doctor, syncing with an app or website, built-in food tracking
So what’s a newcomer to the diabetes world supposed to do?
Often, your insurance will dictate your meter type and you won’t have much of a choice. Cost of strips is a big factor and can quickly eliminate some options. If your healthcare team simply tells you to get a glucometer and start checking, you have some flexibility. Because the cost of test strips can be so high, we recommend either choosing the brand your insurance will cover, or going with the ReliOn brand found at Walmart to get you started. Some models are as inexpensive as $9 for the meter and $9 for a box of 50 test strips.
If you become concerned about accuracy or that there’s too much variation in readings, bring your device in to your doctor’s office and have them compare your glucometer to their clinic model. Some variation is to be expected, but red flags can be caught and addressed. Remember simple hygiene can go a long way towards accuracy. Wash your hands before testing to give the best results! You can also call the number printed on the back of the meter for technical support if you suspect a problem.
Don’t become overwhelmed by the glucometer selection process. The bottom line is to choose one and get started tracking. For an easy-to-read log sheet, sign up for our resource library and download one now.
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