Until now, the improvements in the blood glucose meters that all of us who have diabetes use have been tiny steps forward. In the 40 years since the Ames Reflectance Meter -- our first blood glucose meter -- came on the market, these little changes have added up to much greater convenience. And now a new meter is here that takes us so much further that I'm having a hard time to decide which improvements I should write about.
Fittingly, this meter comes from Bayer Diabetes Care. Bayer is one of the four leading meter manufacturers in the United States (the others are LifeScan with its OneTouch meters, Roche with its Accu-Chek meters, and Abbott with its TheraSense meters). It's fitting because a company that is now part of Bayer made the first meter.
Less fitting, I think, is the name of the new meter. Bayer calls it the Contour USB. The original Contour meter has been around for five years. While it was the first meter that we didn't have to code its test strips, calling the new meter the Contour USB seemed to be rather ho-hum at first.
And after using the Contour USB for the first time today, it seems even more of a misnomer. This is a stunning meter.
Bayer's New Contour USB Blood Glucose Meter
Sure, the Contour USB has the same no-coding technology that the Contour pioneered. And indeed it has a USB connection, but it's hardly the first. Ten years ago when all of our blood glucose meters had serial rather than USB connections that would have been news.
And for years I have been arguing that our meters need an easy way to separate out before meal and after meal readings. Otherwise, we can't track relevant changes in our levels with software. A couple of others will let us tease out these readings, but none half as easily as the Contour USB. This meter even has built in alarms that you can change or turn off.
Even more important is the built-in Glucofacts Deluxe software. If you have a modern computer, just plug the Coutour USB meter in to a USB port, automatically loading the software.
That's a big if. This new meter is so advanced that computers even a few years old won't work with it.
First, you have to used a high powered USB port.
Second, in order to run Glucofacts Deluxe you need either a PC with Windows XP SP3 or Vista SP2 or a Mac with an Intel 64 bit processor. Neither of my Macs is powerful enough, not even my laptop that I bought just 3 and 1/2 years ago.
This week I will be getting the new quad-core i7 iMac to replace my desktop computer. I will add an update to this post then.
The Contour USB meter is certainly fast, taking just five seconds to test. It takes a very small blood sample, just 0.6 microliters. Nowadays, we take those specs for granted.
But among the new features, this meter has the first rechargeable battery. It has an easy-to-read bright and colorful display and a lighted test strip port, making testing in the dark possible.
And this is a small meter. It weights just 1.75 ounces and is 3 and 3/4 inches long by 1 and 1/4 inches wide. So far, at least, it's available only in black.
Bayer provides a summary of the Contour USB's precision data based on a study of five blood specimens with glucose levels ranging from 42 to 340 mg/dl. Using 100 samples tested with multiple Contour USB meters and one lot of Contour test strips returned results in terms of standard deviation (SD) and coefficient of variation. An expert on statistics interpreted the results as follows:
"The chart tells first the SD of the various levels of the instrument 44, 64, 132, 204, and 332 mg/dl blood sugar," he wrote. "Then we have standard error at these levels are 0.10, 0.14, 0.18, 0.35, and 0.38 rspectively (if N=100, Std error = SD/Sq rt of SD or in this case SD/10). The coefficient of variation gives you a better picture, and that represents the SD roughly as a percent of each level, e.g. 1.0/44 mg/dl is rougly a 2.4% 'error.' Two to three times that percentage on either side of the measurement might be expected by chance. At the high end, the percent error is about half what it is a the low end, e.g., 3.8/332 mg/dl, roughly a 1.2% "error". Again, two to three times that percentage could be expected by chance.
"All that means is that a measurement of 44 could represent an actual blood
sugar of anywhere between 41 and 47 mg/dl (at a 99% confidence level,
~3.00 SD for a not quite normal distribution). Similarly, a measurement of
332 could mean a blood sugar of anywhere between 320 and 346 mg/dl. Not
too bad at either end, I think."
The Contour USB is just becoming available. Walgrens will start offering it on Wednesday for $74.99.
This is a meter for people serious about controlling their diabetes. Especially for those who just found out that they have diabetes and for those who use insulin, this meter is the way to go.