How We Test Glucometers

Glucometers: Our Testing Process

Initially, we intended to test the accuracy of each glucometer because an accurate blood-glucose reading is the most important part of managing your diabetes. However, we quickly learned that testing on real blood was unrealistic because of lab costs and small sample sizes. We'd need to send blood to a lab to compare actual glucose levels with the readings of the same blood sample by a glucometer. And we'd need hundreds, if not thousands, of readings to provide reliable data.OneTouch Verio IQOneTouch Verio IQ
To get around this hurdle, we tested the accuracy on a control solution— a liquid with a known and stated glucose level— provided by the meter manufacturer to calibrate your glucometer when it seems like it's not giving a correct reading. When you perform a test with a control solution, you can determine if your glucometer is providing accurate results if they match that known glucose level. However, while testing, we learned that many of the control solutions use a proprietary mixture. This means that some glucometers work only with their assigned control solution. In other words, this method also failed to provide adequate data because we could not test and compare the results head-to-head.

Although we were unable to test the accuracy of the meters, glucometers must meet FDA regulation standards before they hit the market. The regulations state that each device must be accurate within 15 percent of the actual blood sugar levels, 95 percent of the time. While these numbers seem fairly accurate, the margin of error means it's important to have a backup glucometer.

A Backup Glucometer

A backup glucometer allows you to double-check a strange reading that you think may not be accurate. For example, if you have a very high reading but you feel fine, you can check your blood again with a second glucometer. If the reading is high on both, then you can act accordingly. But if the backup glucometer gives a normal reading, then you can assume that your primary glucometer needs to be calibrated.

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Backup glucometers also help when you've run out of test strips. For example, if your primary glucometer is made by FORA, you'll likely have to order test strips rather than run to a pharmacy to get them. And if you don't order them far enough in advance, you could easily run out of test strips before the refills arrive. A backup glucometer can fill the gap.

Test-Strip Costs & Availability

The most expensive part of using a glucometer isn't the device; it's the test strips. These disposable strips of plastic and metal can cost between a dime and a few dollars each, and they aren't interchangeable. For example, you can't use the same test strip on a FORA glucometer and an Accu-Chek glucometer. Each device uses only a specific type of test strip, which means two glucometers that cost $29.99 could represent a difference of thousands of dollars in long-term costs.

OneTouch Ultra 2OneTouch Ultra 2
You also have to consider availability. If you run out of test strips, you can't wait several days for an online order to come in; you must find the test strips at a pharmacy. If you can't find them in a pharmacy, you have to buy an all-new glucometer that comes with strips, so availability matters.

To evaluate these factors, we compared and averaged the prices of each glucometer's test strips from 15 online stores and five local pharmacies. We also noted the availability of each type of test strip. Some test strips were available everywhere, while some were sold only in one or two online stores.

Design & Features

AgaMatrix Presto ProAgaMatrix Presto ProWe evaluated the design of each glucometer for both function and style, paying attention to how the test strips are placed into the glucometer and how easy they are to remove. We also looked for large screens with big numbers and high-contrast digits, as well as features like Bluetooth, NFC (near-field communication), mobile apps, reading notes and more.

Ease of Use

FORA Test N'GoFORA Test N'GoGlucometers should make it easier, not harder, to manage your diabetes. As such, we looked at how easy the interface was to navigate. For example, we preferred devices with multiple buttons that let you navigate through features to those with a single button that requires you to cycle through screens to navigate the interface.