This past summer I posted a review of the OneTouch Verio glucometer – a device to measure your blood sugar, for those who don’t know – and in the comments of the same, Daniel suggested me to look into the Accu-Chek Mobile meter as an alternative, which I did.
Before venturing in the actual review, I would like to take a moment to explain to people who might not have experience with glucometers, or that may be reading me during their early experience with them, on why the review of that particular meter is a good time to suggest a different one. Before the Verio, I have been using other OneTouch devices. The previous devices all shared the same strips (the most consumable part of the device), so moving from one to the other was painless and obvious. The Verio by design replaced the strips with a new technology, and the lack of compatibility means it’s the same as changing to a different meter brand. So Daniel was right at suggesting me to look into alternatives before stocking up on Verio consumables.
The Accu-Chek Mobile by Roche (UK link) is advertised as a “strip free.” This was one of the main reasons for me to consider this meter. While it still uses the same process (and the same finger blood sacrifice), it loads the reactive material on a winding tape on a cassette good for 50 tests. The end result is that you don’t have to do the whole dance of opening the bottle of strips, taking one out (which is not trivial sometimes), use it, then find a place to discard it. There’s no bottle, no strip, and no discard on a test-by-test basis.
To give you an idea of how much of a difference this makes, I have definitely improved my daily routine from 3-4 tests a day on two different meters (one kept at the office and one at home) to 4-6 on a single meter, and that has actually made for better decisions. I have not forgotten to resupply my office meter, or near-lost my strip bottle at an airport lounge (real story.) Believe me it’s much less embarrassing to test your blood in a restaurant with this device than with a good old strip meter.
Furthermore the lancing device is latched to the meter itself, which means you only have one piece of kit that you have to bring around daily. There are of course supplies to keep, but the fully stocked device is good for 50 strip-equivalents and six needles.
But this is not the only advantage of this device over the previous meters I used. If you remember, to be able to download data off the OneTouch devices I wrote a Python tool to do that. You can notice that I have no support for that device there, and the reason is that the device exposes itself as a (read-only) USB Mass Storage device, essentially a thumbdrive. And within that device you’ll find an HTML file with the interpreted data, broken down by time of the day, and day of the week, and even access to the raw data. All I need to do is to open the HTML file, export as PDF and send it to my doctor.
Moving on to the practicalities, once the cartridge is loaded in the device, you just need to open the door at the bottom of the device for it to load a new “strip”, then it signals you to provide blood. At first I had a bit of trouble timing it correctly: the notice on display to provide blood takes about two seconds to appear, because it first warns you to wash your hands. The trick is to wait for a red LED flashing through the strip instead. The amount of blood needed is bigger than the Verio but about the same as the old OneTouch models.
As I mentioned in passing earlier, the lancing device also has a cartridge system that includes six needles — you can discard one needle to move to the next by using the switch on the device itself, but this is of course a one-way system. Once the cartridge is removed from the lancing device it also can’t be put back, so you’ll have to discard it. Here’s where things got bothersome for me when I started using this meter: with the meter they gave me only two cartridges (twelve needles total), and while figuring out the device I removed the needles cartridge, so I had to discard an empty one right away. I went to the pharmacy the next day to pick up supplies and they gave me a box of needles cartridges too… which I did not try at that point, afraid I’d have to discard more. So I brought all of them with me to Paris on my following trip, only to figure out after removing the used needles that the box I was given is for a different model.
Accu-Chek Mobile meters exist in two models, the older and discontinued one used a lancing device called Multiclix, while the one I have is the newer one and has a lancing device called Fastclix. The only place on the device where that is written down (beside instruction manual and box, which I didn’t bring with me to the pharmacy) is on the side of the device, where it latches to the meter. So you have to take it out to read it.
Luckily for me, the FastClix supplies are easy to find in France too (and with even a bit more luck, the pharmacist I asked Pardonnez moi, je ne parle pas français, parlez-vous italien, s’il vous plait? happily told me she spoke Italian), so I got a new box of needles there. But it is a bothersome thing to realize that late in a trip.
Similarly to the Verio, the Accu-Chek Mobile uses two AAA batteries, which again are very easy to source; unlike the LifeScan meter, this does not make it bulky as the battery compartment is tiny and on the side of it, with a camera-like battery door on the top. While the actual volume might be about the same as the Verio, all in all the device is more compact and handier to travel with.
There are of course some snags with this system as well. The first one is that unlike LifeScan and Abbott meters, it was not obvious how to get the meter itself. I had a OneTouch back in Italy (through my sister who used it temporarily when pregnant) and I upgraded to an UK version (mmol/L) when I moved over here by just calling them up. From that to the Mini, and from the Mini to the Verio it was just an online form because I already had a previous version. The Abbott meter I have was given to me by my doctor’s local pharmacy, for free since Abbott makes the money on supplies as everyone else. But neither that pharmacy nor my local pharmacy stock Accu-Chek meters.
To get a hold of a meter I ended up signing up for a waitlist on Accu-Chek’s website. A few weeks later they sent me an email offering me to try the meter for free, and once I sent that out I received my device in the mail, which was cool. It came with a full cassette of fifty tests and two drums of lancets – as mentioned earlier I thrown out one of the drums right away unfortunately – which is a better “trial” than the other meters I had, that came with about a dozen tests, and I think a replacement lancet each.
Interestingly, the meter does not come with a case — every other meter I got came with its own soft case with a plastic holder inside shaped to hold only the device. In this case there is no such case, although arguably you don’t need one, as the meter is fully self contained: no need for a separate lancing device, no bottle of strips to carry around, no spare lancet. Instead, Roche gives you an option between a soft case (similar to the other meters) or a faux-leather hard case, similar to old Blackberry cases. But to get the case for free, you have to register the actual meter online, including serial number, and a few more tidbits, including the important question: “have you switched your prescription to Accu-Chek supply?” While all this kind of market research tends to be heavily flawed it does give them if not some feedback a way to suggest that to their new customers.
At the end I’m very happy with this new meter and I can recommend it for convenience. It seems reliable and consistent with the readings from the other devices (I ran them in parallel for a while.) And it’s quite nice to travel with. Plus it does not need a special software to download the data which is the killer for me.