Testing my blood sugar is a task I have done faithfully, frequently, and yet without much enthusiasm every day for more than 20 years. It has been like brushing my teeth – I know it’s good for me, so I do it. I’m like a robot.
And that’s the problem: I check my blood sugar (at least six times a day), I make a decision in the moment (e.g. take insulin, or treat a low), and then I put the number out of my mind (it’s stored in the meter, right?).
Tsk, tsk, I imagine my diabetes nurse implying when I show up for a three-month appointment with my meter and only a vague guess as to what the data will show when we download them.
But I have good news: There is a new blood glucose meter from OneTouch that may change my reactive approach to monitoring. Called the VerioIQ, it’s billed as the first meter that searches for and alerts the user to high or low blood glucose patterns.
As a new owner of a VerioIQ, I’m smitten. The people at OneTouch have not only re-imagined the display and improved the usefulness of the blood glucose data to the user, they have redesigned the physical device itself, as well as the lancets and the lancer.
The body is slimmed down from the OneTouch UltraSmart I have used for a few years. The VerioIQ is rectangular and contemporary–looking with rounded edges. The display is backlit for testing in dark and low-light conditions, and the interface uses black with touches of color on a white background for greatly improved legibility over other meters. Eco-friendly, the VerioIQ is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery; a USB cable and AC adapter are included in the package.
The experience of pricking one’s finger and milking it for blood – a challenge for those of us with fingertips callused from years of testing – has been addressed, too. With the kit come the new Delica lancets and lancing device. The first time I used one of the ultra-fine lancets, I doubted it had pierced the skin because the sensation was negligible: no pain or throbbing. I squeezed, though, and was surprised by a sufficient bead of blood.
That the VerioIQ alerts me to blood glucose patterns is what will help me better put my glucose data to work. For years, my diabetes educator and endocrinologist have separately been admonishing me: “Look at your data.” Well, I do look at them, but only in the instant a number appears on the display. I do not look at my data over time, searching for patterns and trying to get ahead of the causes, by changing my bolus ratio or basal rate at certain times of day, for example, as I should. I seem to wait for my three-month clinical appointment, when I should be looking for patterns on my own – I’m an expert at my own diabetes, after all – and doing so weekly.
In several days test-driving this new blood glucose meter (the VerioIQ looks for patterns over the most recent five days), I have been alerted to two trends — late-afternoon highs and post-dinner lows. While I just started keeping a food and exercise diary for a few days to investigate the cause, I suspect that these two trends are related: a late-afternoon high of 180 or so that makes me take a correction bolus at dinner, which causes me to fall to 60 or 70 at bedtime. I end up eating at a time of day I don’t feel like eating to bring that blood glucose up. Perhaps the high is caused by wanton eating in the afternoon, or perhaps I need to adjust the basal rate on my pump. I have a feeling that, if I find the cause of the high and fix it, the pattern of post-dinner lows may fade without additional intervention.
I like the pattern spot-and-alert feature of the VerioIQ so much that I wish it were slightly expanded. In this first version of the meter, it’s only possible to tag blood glucose readings as “Before Meal” or “After Meal.” Because I occasionally wake in the middle of the night from hypoglycemia or experience it during exercise, I’d like two more tags: “Night” and “Exercise.” The existing tags are not apt for these types of episodes, which are also ones I want the meter to help me spot.
The VerioIQ kit comes with a USB cable, needed for both recharging the battery and connecting the meter to a computer for uploading data to the OneTouch Diabetes Management Software, which is free. Alas, the software runs only on Windows OS and not Mac OS. As someone who prefers and owns Apple products, that leaves me out.
Still, the meter itself has several built-in ways for looking at glucose records over a 90-day period. There’s the Results Log, for details on the most recent six readings; Averages, for 7, 14, 30, and 90 days periods; and Pattern Log, which is like a record of the “texts” or messages about high or low patterns that the system pushes at the user. A lot of proactive decisions can be made from these ways of reviewing data.
For every diabetes device and product I use, I can think of at least one feature or function I’d like to see added. The more feature-laded a device is, however, the more complex it is to use. Complexity may lead to frustration and abandonment. The design of the VerioIQ system, which includes the painless lancets and the legible display, is really inviting to use. It looks good, feels right in my hand (and on my fingertips), and makes my glucose numbers – and more importantly, the patterns — highly visible. Look at my data? I can no longer avoid them.
Jane Kokernak is a regular contributor to ASweetLife, she writes the blog Balancing Acts