When Should I Replace My Glucose Meter?
David T. Ahn, MD, responds
The best glucose monitor is the one that you actually put to use—whether you’ve had it for six months or six years. It’s better to use an older meter on a regular basis than to keep a state-of-the-art meter on a shelf collecting dust.
What To Know
Due to annual changes in health insurance plans, the cost of testing supplies for the exact same meter can vary dramatically from one year to another. If the cost of your supplies means you’re not checking your blood glucose as often as necessary, it’s time to look around for more affordable options.
First, make sure you know the brand of glucose meter strips with the lowest copay under your insurance plan. Paying attention to test strip cost is important because that’s where the bulk of the cost of blood glucose testing comes from. If your copay or co-insurance cost is high, consider other glucose meters that use low-priced test strips. Note that some store-brand meter systems might be cheaper per month without a prescription than what you would pay for prescribed strips your insurance carrier prefers. If test strip cost isn’t an issue, ask your doctor about any free meters available from the office.
There’s more to meters than just measuring glucose. Improvements over the years have focused on saving time and easing the burden of daily diabetes management. Generally, newer meters provide readings more quickly, require less blood, and don’t require coding each time you open a new vial of test strips.
In addition, newer glucose meters allow people to transmit their readings wirelessly to smartphone apps and share their diabetes data with their support network. These apps also help users see and better understand trends, such as glucose levels before or after a meal or during exercise.
Find Out More
The accuracy and reliability of your meter is a big deal. Unfortunately, there is no agreement about which meter is the most accurate, and accuracy of test strips can vary from batch to batch. It’s generally accepted that most products put on the market by established meter companies in the last five years are fairly trustworthy.
Individual meters can go bad over time. If you have concerns about the accuracy of your meter, consider getting a new one. Check that your meter is working with its strips by using the meter’s control solution (your pharmacist can order the solution). Run a test with the solution as you would your blood and check that the reading is in line with the known glucose concentration of the solution; check your meter user’s guide for specific instructions. If you need help, ask your provider.
It may be time to replace or upgrade your meter to a newer model if it’s older than five years and you can get one with a lower monthly cost, increased accuracy, and with features such as a smartphone app. Keep in mind, however, that using your meter—old or new—is more important than the brand or model you own.
David T. Ahn, MD, is an endocrinologist with the University of California–Los Angeles Medical Center.