The Story To Date
In late May, I started accumulating information on several of the current generation of blood glucose meters, with the idea of acquiring several different monitors to check out the latest technologies, accuracy and reliability, and the user-friendliness (and modern-computer-friendliness) of their data connections and software. Between May 20 and May 23, I filled out the application forms for the following meters:
- Lifescan's OneTouch Ultra2 (captures more information than the UltraMini)
- Accu-Chek's Aviva -- and separately, the free skins
- Abbott's Freestyle Lite (successor to the Freestyle Flash)
- Simple Diagnostics' Clever Chek (an inexpensive monitor with inexpensive strips)
I would have also liked to find "freebies" for the Agamatrix/Wavesense Keynote and Diabetic Supply of Suncoast's Advocate Duo -- but since these are lower-consumables-cost, "off-brand" monitors, the cost of the monitor is not offset by the cost of strips. Of all the low-cost/low-maintenance-cost monitors, these are the two that interest me the most (well, the Wavesense Jazz is even more interesting, but it's not yet FDA approved, and I can't find any place that sells the Wavesense Presto and its strips).
[Note: Neither the Bayer Contour nor Breeze2, nor the Nova Max, made it into this cut, as those meters required switching my prescription over to them before I could do a free evaluation, or the purchase of 100 strips or more at retail to get them for free through a pharmacy-based offer.]
Since some of my free offers specified waiting six to eight weeks for delivery, I put the project on hold waiting for everything to arrive.
- The OneTouch Ultra2 arrived about two weeks after I sent in the request, with everything expected.
- The skins for the Aviva arrived three weeks after I sent in the request -- alone.
- Other folk here (and on other diabetes social networks) mentioned that their dual order had both the monitor AND the strips in a single shipment, which they'd received in that same three-week timeframe. I still figured to leave six to eight weeks...
- Nothing else arrived in the first six weeks.
I verified that the Freestyle offer should have actually arrived in three to five weeks, so I called Abbott Customer Care.
- They told me that the monitors had been backordered, and estimated that I should receive my meter the following week. In the meantime, I was given information about the Freestyle Promise program -- which provides members with a free meter, free meter upgrades, financial assistance with paying for strips, and toll-free support -- and I believe I went through a preliminary sign-up at that time.
- The new meter did not arrive in the estimated time frame, so I called them back. I went through the full sign-up for the Freestyle Promise program. My meter arrived about two weeks after that.
- Two weeks after that meter arrived, my Freestyle Promise card arrived in the mail.
- A few days later, another package arrived -- also from the Freestyle Promise program, and containing a second Freestyle Lite.
After a full eight weeks had passed with no Aviva, I called Accu-Chek customer care. While they had some trouble locating the promotion through which I had signed up (I later found they had the correct link; I kept giving it to them wrong), after some double-checking, they sent me out the Aviva via Federal Express, with the separate 50-strip vial.
At the ninth week, I called Simple Diagnostics, to check on the Clever Chek monitor. The first time I called, they had no inbound audio. I called back a couple of days later. Based on there being a single number for all incoming calls and the way my call was handled, it would seem as if there is a single receptionist who is manually routing inbound call information for offline research and follow-up. I did get the call back. It took a while for me to explain to the fellow on the far end what I was inquiring about. He stated that the offer was only available to those with existing insurance coverage (which I have). I mentioned that yes, indeed, I had insurance and put that information down on the request form. He said he'd have a salesperson get back to me... and that's where things are right now.
Based my experiences thus far, I would say that the three major manufacturers are either serving the customers well out-of-the-box or are making every effort to satisfy us on the first call. (First Contact Resolution is a Very Good Thing.) I'm not quite as sanguine about the folk at Simple Diagnostics, but then again, it's a lesser-known brand and not as readily available.
With most of the freebie meters in-hand, it is time to order those meters I'm going to need to pay for, as well as enough strips to give those meters a reasonable workout. I'm figuring 50 strips each, plus the 10 that many of them came with, should give me a reasonable number of tests. I plan to manually log the results into an Excel workbook to compare them, but I'm also interested in the data management capabilities of these meters. To evaluate this, I will also need to acquire the data cables and software for as many of these monitors as possible. (The free Clever Chek does not have a data port; the other Clever Chek systems do.)
I am currently in the process of acquiring the accessories and supplies I will need to perform these tests. After doing a bit of comparison shopping and checking out minimum free-shipping orders, the plan is to place the following orders:
- Through Diabetic Express the OneTouch date management system and the entire Agamatrix Keynote system (monitor, strips, and data management system). Diabetic Express is running a promo through July 31st, through which the Keynote monitor is free with the purchase of 100 strips. (The cost of the extra 50 strips is less than the cost of the monitor.)
- Through Hock's Internet Pharmacy, the Freestyle Lite strips, a much-needed supply of CR2032 batteries, and the OneTouch Ultra strips. While Hock's price for the Freestyle Lite strips is $2.00 more than American Diabetes Wholesale, I needed to bring my total order up over $79 to qualify for free shipping. I'm also a member of their affinity program, which gives me points and discounts on quantity orders.
- Through American Diabetes Wholesale, additional Multiclix lancets for the Aviva system, strips for the Clever Chek, and the entire Advocate Duo system (meter, connection cable, strips, control solutions, and lancing device).
I've not yet ordered the Advocate system -- since I'll be ordering it from American Diabetes Wholesale, same as the Clever Chek strips, I'm holding off until I have some more definite information on the Clever Chek situation. Given that I'm currently unemployed and I've invested close to $200 in this experiment, I'm getting a bit gun-shy about investing the final $110-130. On the plus side, the investment will include an integrated wrist sphygmomanometer (blood pressure measurement device), with software to download and manage my blood pressure readings -- which, if the readings are accurate, is certainly "worth the price of admission". And it's a talking device, which can be useful in low-light situations or if I'm peer-educating the visually-impaired. On the minus side, it's still another hundred dollars.
If I don't hear from Simple Diagnostics by the end of the week, I'll probably remove them from consideration and order the Advocate anyway.
Once I have supplies and software in-hand, I'll be ready to start Phase 2 -- the actual testing and comparison. Or maybe, Phase 2 should be designing the test protocol (it's one of those half-baked things floating around in my brain -- I've done it before, but never with a formal testing protocol), and Phase 3 the actual testing.
Sheesh! Looking at new meters is becoming a bit of a Major Project! And here am I, with no Six Sigma training at all...