Three Surprises in a New Survey of Blood Glucose Meter Satisfaction

Patient Expert

A survey that came out this morning shows that an overwhelming proportion of people in this country who use blood glucose meters really like the ones that Bayer makes. But the meters that the other three leading manufacturers make aren't far behind.

These results surprise me. With all the complaints that I get here about the inaccuracy and lack of precision of our meters I didn't expect the degree of satisfaction that this survey reported. Either they know something that we don't or ignorance is bliss.

In any case, meters made by Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical and chemical company, ranked highest in customer satisfaction in a J.D. Power survey of 2,024 people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. "Bayer ranks highest in satisfaction with a score of 843, performing particularly well in meter performance; ease of use; design; features; and cost of test strips," J.D. Power says.   Since the survey is calculated on a 1,000 point scale, let's just say that 84 percent of the users that they surveyed are satisfied with Bayer meters.

But meters made by LifeScan Inc., one the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, were a close second with a satisfaction score of nearly 84 percent. Third was Abbott Laboratories with a satisfaction score of about 83 percent. Trailing in last place at 82 percent was Roche Diagnostics, a division of the Swiss healthcare company F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, which makes Accu-Chek meters.

These scores are all quite close, but Rick Johnson, director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, told me that the differences are statistically significant. I reached him by phone as he was passing through the airport in Boise, Idaho, yesterday, while this story was still under embargo.

The survey reported satisfaction only at the company level, not for individual meters. But J.D. Power asked about individual meters and even showed the panel members photos of the meters to help them get it right, Mr. Johnson told me. The overwhelming number of the 397 people who said that they use Bayer meters have a Contour or Breeze 2 blood glucose meter.

J.D. Power interviewed the 2,024 panelists over the Internet, Mr. Johnson told me. They worked with four panels that they got from four different companies.

They didn't limit the survey to these four big pharmas, Bayer, J&J, Abbott, and Roche. In fact, 206 responses came from people who use meters made by several other companies, he said. But this was too small of a sample for them to include in the results.

Health insurance companies have formularies for diabetic testing supplies that generally limit our choices to just a few brands of blood glucose meters. Almost all of these formularies limit our choice to meters made by the big four.

Another survey result that surprised me was the small proportion of meter users who said they had any choice. "Overall, 38 percent of meter users indicate having had multiple meters to choose from when they acquired their meter," J.D. Power's press release reported.

In fact, this small proportion so shocked me that I asked Mr. Johnson specifically about it. His answer implied that this may be incorrect. "People don't fully understand their heath care benefits and may actually have a bigger choice," he replied.

And the survey results gave me a third surprise. "When meter users select a meter based on lancet size, satisfaction is 75 points higher, on average, than when selection is not based on lancet size," according to the press release. Why would anyone select a meter on this basis, I wondered. Unlike test strips, which are made for specific meters or meter brands, lancets are independent of the meters.

The answer, Mr. Johnson reminded me, is that meters are sold in a bundle with a few lancets and a lancing device, a case, and a few other things like a log book.

"Maybe the quality of the meter is driving their satisfaction, but the bundle is also important to them."

These surprises drive home to me the great difference between the limited knowledge of blood glucose meters that most American with diabetes have and the greater knowledge that most readers of this post have. I have to do a better job of getting the word out. And you can help.