Choosing the correct glucometer


About a year ago, I ordered a Bayer Contour meter; the little kind with the USB plug built right in. When you think about it, it’s actually sort of amazing just how unusual it is for a blood glucose meter to have a built-in ability to connect to a computer. The last meter I had used before the Contour was a OneTouch of some kind. It was very accurate and all, but there was simply no way for me to download information from it. When I ordered the cable for that meter, it arrived with an outdated serial port that none of my computers actually used.

My reasons for changing brands and moving to the little Contour were (1) the USB drive and (2) the fact that my health insurance had some weird deal with Contour where they would cover the cost of the test strips with a mere co-pay - that’s $40 per month as opposed to $120 or so with the OneTouch meter.

Oh, also? There’s no test strip coding with the Contour.

Anyway, so I got the Contour. I plugged it into my laptop, and the computer crashed. I downloaded new software for the device after rebooting, and tried to sign up for an online account and tracking program. I never really got anywhere with that - I kept getting login errors, and I finally just gave up. Let my doctor deal with the meter’s charts.

But then, I started noticing some real weirdness with my blood sugars. Highs. I’m on a low-carb diet (and I take Metformin), but I’d find myself with fasting sugars of 200 and post-workout readings of 250. This went on for months - and I would often notice that the Contour USB meter would give me highly varied readings. I’m talking about readings of a range of 150 points or greater - within three minutes. The first reading would be 275. I would freak out, retest… and get a reading of 200. Test again, reading of 150. Test again, and the next reading was 180. Test again? 99.

That’s a pretty big goddamn range of blood sugars there - what if I was still on insulin? Two years ago, if I had had a reading of 190, I would have given myself two or three units of Humalog. But what if my blood sugar was actually 99?

After a while, my readings were getting higher and higher, and staying that way even after multiple testings. I concluded that I was, in fact, becoming a type 1.5 diabetic - this does run in my family. I contacted an endocrinologist. I had tests run. I braced myself for a life of insulin dependency… again.

The results came back with an A1C of 5.2. My doctor was thrilled. My mom was thrilled. My husband was thrilled. I… was confused.

My GP prescribed a new blood glucose meter. Every reading with the new meter has fallen within a normal range. My endocrinologist was shocked when I told her just how untrustworthy my Contour had been. "But so many of our patients love it!"

Maybe it’s a good meter - maybe I just got a bad one? I did check the Consumer Reports reviews, in which the Contour USB came in last as far as accuracy goes. Has anyone else had trouble with this model?

Great post, first congrats to your A1C I would kill to have that! I have never used the Contour always wondered about it though. I use the OneTouch ultra link which goes with my pump (mainly because I am lazy and hate to punch in the BG number after I test). However this weekend I had to do a bout with CGM to make sure all my settings were correct and help get my A1C lower. I noticed even with in brands the meters can vary widely with results. I used a Freestyle, and two different OneTouch meters, all three gave me a different result. You would think that there would be some sort of check system on these things. Being on insulin I would have pumped in with your results and could have done damage. Glad you caught it and are ok.

Can I ask what you are using now or did you just get another contour?

OMG, I am a T1 and was so frustrated with the accuracy and consistency of this meter, I am almost an advocate against it. Like you, I loved the modern technology. Color screen, small size, usb and onscreen graphing. Only problem is that I got crazy readings. I noticed one meter was less accurate than another so i suspect that some are better than others. At the time, they were giving them away so I used a few. When i finally got on that seemed to work, I did parallel testing taking all readings with the USB and my one touch ultra. Final findings. My USB seemed to like to read around say 120 and didn't like to deviate. If my OT read 70, it would read 90. If I got a bad reading in either meter, I would retest both. the OT would read highs like during a snack binge with higher and more variance, so over 200, I would give the edge to the USB. Problem, is as an active MDI T1, I am worried more about the low so it is of no use to me. Since most are T2, maybe this is the market they choose to go after. If allowable is something like +/- 20%, there is alot of room in their algorithems to 'bias' in a given direction and still pass. I went back to my onetouch.

On another note, I think there is some program through bayer that ensures that you won't pay more than like a $15 (?) copay. I am sure you can google it if it doesn't pop up on their site. And as for the cord for the one touch, call their customer service and I am sure they should be able to help. I was really suprised when I had a nasty time getting it to install. I am moderately saavy, and the instructions they gave me seemed like scripted junk, but reluctantly i did wat they said to and it worked. I wouldn't have thought it, but they really did help. If the cords are dated, I bet they would tell you if there is or isn't a solution.

This has been very educational for me. Am real glad you have a handle on everything. Second, I just a did the survey on this site. I use an Accu Chek sensor using the Comfort strips. It's an old model I got it when I was diagnosed in 2001/2. It's old kit, but works fine! My T2 is often wild and Im new this site. Here in rural Spain I have no support, never seen an Endo, or had advice. I would love a meter that would help me down load my readings, and provide other information I could present in a professional way to my Doctor. It's real hard being heard here! I could then down load it and build a record to produce in order to try and influence him. How many other types of meter are there? I have no idea at all about most of the jargon your talking about. However grateful you have a handle on everything now!

Hi, Damon - I use the Accu-Chek Aviva tester now - I'm not entirely sure which one. I think I left it in my car, so would have to run and get it. The test strips come with a little chip that you plug into a slot in the machine. That serves as a code, I guess?

LACA310 - Bayer makes the Contour, right? But my co-pay was always $40; I wasn't aware that it could be any better than that! I'm happy with my new meter - I just couldn't trust the Contour at all. It didn't occur to me to call customer service; maybe because I spent the last year working in customer services. ;)

muleman - Sorry, I didn't realize I was using any jargon. I try to avoid it, because I get sort of confused by it as well. Was there anything in particular that I said that didn't make sense?

Being outside of a major city must be incredibly hard. Are you on a diabetic diet?

Andrea, Its not just you! MDI, OT, CGM, Freestyle(what?),USB? I have lots of USB's and one on my phone, but what does it mean here?
I thank God we have a health service so I get everything free and I'm a pensioner! But have no help,support or therapy for my complications! I would love to have a meter that could log more and different information.
It's not being outside a major city. It's living in a country only 36 years with democracy. The dictatorship only made doctors, teachers etc, of men and women in the fascist part who were 'good catholic s. People are still employed because a family member got them the job. Ability is still sometimes over looked. Not everywhere. Our transplant surgeons are second to none. My doctor in Granada is an Alcoholic and very iffy. I come back here to our family home in Malaga (village of Competa) because we have better staff. I have to change homes every 10 days! Still my doctor offers me no support. Just subscription tabs! So despite my age, I am a baby soaking as much info up as I can since I'm new here!

So, in this case, USB refers to the same kind of USB you are familiar with. The model of glucometer that I used (the Contour) has a built-in USB port, so you can plug the meter into a computer and download the information on your blood sugar levels to your computer. You technically should be able to use the Bayer software on your computer to track your sugars, too, but I never got the software to work.

MDI means "multiple daily injections" - a description of a diabetic who uses short-acting insulin to control blood sugars.

CGM refers to "continuous glucose monitoring" - I only recently learned of this myself. It's not something I use, but it's really important for Type 1 diabetics. There is information about CGM herecontinuous-glucose-monitoring - I could describe it, but it's probably easier for you to read the article about it. It's mostly used for people who have issues with really low blood sugars.

"Freestyle" is the model name of a type of glucometer.

I've heard that Spain's medical system can be a bit iffy - one of my friends is from Barcelona, and she used to regale me with stories about her childhood there.

As a Type 2 diabetic myself, all I can do is recommend a low-carb diet and sticking to your medications. If you can really cut back on carbohydrate consumption (you might already be doing this), you might find that your blood sugar levels even out. I used to take insulin, and my doc put me on a low-carb diet, and now I only need Metformin. My sugars are fairly stable, although I get the occasional high. I barely eat any sweets, and don't eat bread, rice, pasta, or potatoes. It was really hard at first, but it is getting better. It is expensive, though.

Andrea, sorry I kind of fell of the face of the earth thanks for your response, I am now looking for something better than what I have, I seem to waste a lot of strips trying to get enough blood for it, I heard the accu-check is better but United Health Care doesn't like it.

You made a comment about cutting back on carbs, I know T2's vary, and my latest blood work has the doctor thinking I am a T2 and not a T1 after all these years because they found a very low level of Cpeptids? in my blood which is a sign that my body is making some insulin, but I tried cutting back on carbs a few times and found my levels would get worse, then figured out it was because I was eating natural sugar too much, it would be very nice to see someone come out with eat this, not that type thing and walk around with me =) I wish I could get off insulin but know it won't be the case for the rest of my life.

Thanks again for your posts!