Diabetes Forecast

4 Steps to Picking the Best Diabetes Products

Tips for being a savvy consumer

By Tracey Neithercott ,

If you've browsed the 2010 Consumer Guide, you'll notice we didn't list our top picks. That's intentional. The option that matters most is yours.

"Everybody's different as far as their likes and dislikes," says Camille Izlar, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, BC-ADM, a certified diabetes educator with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine's Diabetes Care Center. Home in on the options that will make your life easier: Do you need a meter with a backlight that helps you check your child's blood glucose in the middle of the night? Are you looking for a meter that will "speak" your results? Or a mini-meter that you can easily stick in your pocket when you go for a run? "It is so important for patients and their families to be good consumers," says Paula Clinton, RD, CDE, a certified diabetes educator in the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "Patients need to be their own advocates and be aware of what's out there in the diabetes world."

It takes work to be a smart consumer. But, according to both Clinton and Izlar, the following steps can help you pick the best devices for your needs.

1 | Consider Insurance

So, how much is all this going to cost you? That depends. You won't see any prices in this guide, because most insurance companies and Medicare cover some or all of the cost of diabetes devices. The same item may cost you more than it cost your friend simply because your insurance company covers less of the total price. Before you settle on a product, give your insurance company a call. Many cover only specific brands of test strips or pumps, for example. "If they'll only cover one pump, then that's what you're going to use," says Clinton. Once you have a list of approved products, begin researching and narrowing down your choices from there. When you're ready to commit, either your insurance company, pharmacy, or a particular product's customer service representative can give you a price estimate based on your specific insurance coverage.

2 | Try It First

You wouldn't buy a car without doing a test drive, so why would you purchase a meter, pump, or continuous glucose monitor before testing it out in person? Most certified diabetes educators and some docs have trial products available in their offices for you to try before you buy. "You can read about it, you can look at it on the Internet, but there's something about holding it and touching it," says Izlar.

3 | Ask for Help

Diabetes educators work with these products every day, so they have a wealth of information—like how a particular company's customer service performs, or which items are ideal for high-energy toddlers—that can inform your decision. Bring your research to a diabetes educator or your doctor and ask for help in narrowing your options. "It's not enough to say, 'I see this and
it looks cool,' " says Clinton. "There are so many tricks and nuances I've learned over the years."
Don't be afraid to ask questions, either. For example, since data from most meters, pumps, and CGMs can be downloaded for your doctor to review, it may be important to find out whether he or she is familiar with the software program your device uses.

4 | Keep an Open Mind

Knowing what you want to get out of a diabetes device is a good thing—it can focus your search and ensure you get the best product for your lifestyle. Yet it's important to keep your options open until you've done some testing. Your diabetes educator may recommend a product that caters to a specific need. "We've got little kids who have type 1," says Clinton. "[Some insulin pumps] allow for remote bolus of insulin so you don't have to grab your 2-year-old child and press the pump." Once you've determined which product is best for you, continue learning: Ask your educator how to operate your meter or insulin pen, or take an insulin-pumping class. "The better someone's educated," says Izlar, "the better they'll do when they get home."



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test