If you’re a person with diabetes, choosing a blood glucose monitor is a very important decision. It is imperative that you find a monitor that is accurate, affordable, and has the capabilities that suits your needs. But, with so many different options on the market, it can be challenging to decide which monitor is the best for you. We spoke with Susan Watkins, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at the Providence St. Joseph Health Center for Health Promotion to answer frequently asked questions about choosing a blood glucose monitor.
Where should I start when looking for a blood glucose monitor?
In most cases, insurance coverage is the first step. Different insurance companies will have a preferred meter or two. Watkins explains that she will start there so that the patient will have the lowest co-pay. “Many meter products have an assistance pay card,” she says, “like Accu-Chek’s SimplePay card, that can be used for patients who are paying with insurance or cash.” These assistance pay cards can be used even if it’s not the preferred meter on your plan and can bring the cost down to a preferred price.
How accurate are they?
All monitors on the market must be approved by the FDA. This means that 95% of all values must be within 15% of a true lab value, and 99% of all values must be within 20%.
But in 2017, an accuracy study by the Diabetes Technology Society was conducted on eighteen FDA approved meters. They were testing to see if each device met the FDA regulations and found that some of the meters did not meet the accuracy requirements.
If you already have a monitor but think that it is giving you inaccurate readings, you can use a control solution that will determine how accurate your monitor is reading your blood glucose levels.
How likely is it that my insurance will cover my monitor?
Watkins says, “Most insurance companies will cover you if you have been diagnosed with diabetes (either type 1 or type 2) and sometimes companies will cover you if you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, but not always. The real challenge is the amount that companies will cover. If you’re not on insulin, most insurance plans will follow what Medicare covers, which is typically one strip a day, or three strips a day if you are on insulin.” More can often be covered with justification from your doctor.
Watkins adds, “If you don’t have insurance there are options like ReliOn monitors and strips, available at retail locations like WalMart or online. These are more affordable choices if you don’t have insurance or if your insurance company doesn’t cover you.”
Why is it important for my monitor to be able to store my readings?
Many health care providers will take meter readings and download them so that they can see the readings since your last appointment. Watkins says, “We analyze them frequently as part of the diabetes program at the Center for Health Promotion. It is very helpful on our side to see how the patient has been doing and when and why their blood glucose levels have been rising and falling.”
It is important for doctors to be able to view your readings so that they can provide the proper diabetes management plan. Because all patients are unique individuals, and their blood glucose levels will spike or fall at different times, it is imperative that your care team can see how your body is working and reacting to different events in your daily life. Different diabetes medications target different times of the day, and knowing your patterns can be helpful when prescribing medication.
But, these readings do not need to be generated digitally. Patients who like to stick to pen and paper will be just fine as long as they continue to record their readings consistently.
Are there certain features or capabilities that I should look for in a monitor?
There are many different kinds of meters, testing strips, and needles out there. What’s most important is to find devices and supplies that suit your needs and make your testing easier, including:
- Technology: Some monitors record your data, download readings to your phone, or create graphs and chart for you to review. You can also find monitors that send your information into the cloud so that you or your doctor can view your readings at any time.
- Larger display: For individuals that have a hard time with reading small words on a screen, there are different size monitors that will be easier to read because of the larger screen and font size.
- Pain: The least painful meters are ones that have a drum versus individual needles. The drum typically contains six needles on a round circle. Also, the needles aren’t exposed, so if you have small children around, you don’t have to worry about them accidentally sticking themselves.
- Size: Know that you have options when it comes to testing strip size. If you have trouble holding on to very small things, larger strips might be helpful for you.
Why is it important to test myself?
Many people with diabetes or prediabetes who aren’t taking diabetes medication think that they don’t need to test, but Watkins says they may find it beneficial. “Even if you only test three times a week before and after different meals, it can give you more information about your body and lifestyle that could help you create a better plan for yourself moving forward.”
Testing your blood can help you understand how your body reacts to different foods, exercise and stress, and it help you see your patterns during certain times of the day. Susan explains that you can make small changes that have a big impact. “For example, if your blood glucose spikes after eating at a certain restaurant, you can go for a walk afterwards, eat a smaller portion with extra vegetables or just order something else entirely.”
Choosing a blood glucose monitor can seem daunting, but as long as you find out what works for you, keep track of your readings, and follow your health care providers’ advice, you will be on track to a healthier and better-informed diabetes management plan.
For more information about the Center for Health Promotion’s diabetes program, recognized by the American Diabetes Association for high achievement in diabetes care and education, call:
Brea: (714) 618-9500
Santa Ana: (714) 628-3242
A free meter is provided as part of the program.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.