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Evaluating Glucose Meters:
Talk is Cheap, But Access is Golden

Three different glucose meters.Checking your blood glucose when you have visual impairment can be challenging. In recognition of this, NFB Resolution 97-12 was adopted at the 1997 annual convention and called on meter manufacturers to make their meters speech accessible. Since then, and especially in the past few years, a number of talking blood glucose meters have been introduced. These new meters are smaller, faster, and much less expensive than older choices, require only a tiny drop of blood, and are easier to use. However, buyer beware! While these meters are being aggressively marketed to blind and low vision users, only the Prodigy Voice is totally accessible. Despite the hype, you will find that you need sighted assistance to use essential functions such as time and date, and memory review on many of these products.

The Prodigy Voice, however, is accessible in all aspects. It is the only talking meter with a repeat button for the last message spoken, an external headphone port, audible memory and setup menus, and a customer service staff trained especially to assist blind and low vision customers. It was developed in close consultation with blind and low vision diabetics in the National Federation of the Blind. It provides the blind access to all blood-glucose-monitoring features available to fully sighted consumers.

With advances in technology, adding speech to a meter can be accomplished at a low cost—talk is cheap. And more talking meters means more choices for people with visual impairment or for those who appreciate multi-sensory testing. However, manufacturers need to realize that adding limited audio to a meter may meet the needs of some people with minimal vision loss, but it is not adequate or appropriate for people with moderate or severe vision loss. They need spoken access to all meter operations to ensure independent use—access is truly golden. Since those with diabetes often experience fluctuating vision daily, many people with minimal vision loss may have problems using these meters when their blood glucose is high and vision is at its worst, just when they need a talking meter
the most.

Hearing the test result once is not enough; it’s essential to be able to hear it again. Low-battery alerts, temperature alerts and error messages are also important. Having blind or low vision users included in the design process ensures that all functions of a talking meter are accessible for all users, regardless of the amount of vision loss. Meters should be compatible with computer screen readers, and provide instructions in Braille, large print and audio formats.

The chart reviews six of the current talking meters. The older Duo products marketed by Prodigy and Advocate have a talking blood glucose meter and a wrist blood pressure cuff, but are not included in the review because their meters require sighted assistance for coding. None of the meters reviewed have a backlight. All of the meters reviewed have a blood glucose range of 20-600 and have clear, easy-to-understand voices.

Test Strip Comparison

In all cases, the strips are packaged with the insertion end at the top of the strip container. The insertion end of all the meters has squared corners. The ends of the test strips, which stick out of the meter, have rounded corners except for the Smartest Smart Talk meter strips. Although it is possible to insert strips upside down, the meters will not turn on if you make this mistake. The backs of the strips are flat and smooth. The strips are generally easy to insert non-visually; however, the Smartest Smart Talk meter strips may be more challenging.

Beyond the test—Setting up, modifying settings and accessing other meter functions

Only the Prodigy Voice offers easy and independent access to use of the meter beyond testing. For example, in the Prodigy Autocode, Advocate Redi-Code, and Clever-Chek the button for time, date, volume, temperature, and language is located inside the battery compartment which is hard to open without sight. The Prodigy Autocode and the Advocate Redi-Code only have the one memory button on the front of the meter, but once again, memory readings are not spoken. The Clever-Chek has two buttons on the front, one for Control Solution tests and the other for Memory, but no functions other than testing are spoken.
 
Likewise, The Companion meter from Omnis Health requires sight to use a small scroll wheel on the left side to access memory recall, pc link, set date and time, set three test alarms, sound volume, and language selection. It speaks only the code number, then says apply blood to test strip, and speaks the test result. Omnis Health also produces the Embrace meter.  The Embrace meter has an on/off audible feature and looks like the Companion; however, it is thinner. PC Link software is not available yet. No other information is available for this meter.

The Smartest Smart Talk meter only speaks during the actual test process as well. Unlike the other meters, each time a new bottle of Smart Talk strips is opened, a code key must also be inserted into the meter. Although this additional step does not require any sight, if you are unsure whether or not you have the bottle of strips and code key mixed up, you would need sighted assistance. The code key and test strip vial are identical. The Smartest Smart Talk test strips also have a visual verification window to ensure an adequate sample of blood is obtained. 

Glucose meters have many features, and they all need to be accessible for a person with moderate to severe vision loss to be able to use one independently. Prodigy Voice has proven it can be done. Assess the features carefully and remember, talk is cheap, but access is golden! 

Talking Blood Glucose Monitor Comparison

 

Prodigy Voice

Prodigy Autocode

Advocate
Redi-code

Companion
Embrace

Clever-Chek

Smartest Smart Talk

Manufacturer

Diagnostic Devices, Inc.
800-366-5901

Diagnostic Devices, Inc.
800-366-5901

Diabetic Supply of Suncoast
866-607-1598

Omnis Health
877-450-6734

Simple Diagnostics
1-877-DIABETK

Progressive Health Supply & Source Corp.
732-389-4702

Web Site

www.
prodigymeter.
com

www.
prodigymeter.
com

www.dsosi.com

www.
omnishealth.
com

www.simplediagnostics.
com/documents/77.html

www.
progressivehealthsupply
.com

Technical Support

800-243-2636        24 hours/7days         

800-243-2636        24 hours/7days         

866-373-2824
9am-5pm
Mon-Fri EST

877-979-5454
24 hours/7days

877-342-2385       
24 hours/7days

888-887-4772
9am-5pm
Mon-Fri EST

Independent Setup

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Language

English

English/Spanish

English/Spanish

English/Spanish

English/Spanish

English

Blood sample size

0.6 microliters

0.6 microliters

0.7 microliters

1.1 microliters

0.7 microliters

1.2 microliters

Strip container

Hinged pop cap

Hinged pop cap

Hinged pop cap

Hinged pop cap

Hinged pop cap

Pop cap

Self Coding

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Repeat Button

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Automatic Power Off

3 min

3 min

3 min

2 min

3 min

110 seconds

Cost of Meter

$84.95

$30.00

$39.95

Meter available only through Distribution Program. 

$15.99
$21.99 Kit (ADW)

Meter available only through Distribution Program. 

Cost of 50 Strips

$34.95

$20-$38.50

$18-$26.95

Not Available

$16.79

Not Available

Audible Memory

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Audible warnings/ errors

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

No

Comments

Only completely accessible meter presently for sale in the U.S.

Predecessor to the Prodigy Voice

No online user manual                       Online video instructions

No online user manual              Scoll wheel on left side

 

Code key supplied with each bottle of strips must be inserted into the meter. Fill confirmation window requires sight

Connie KleinbeckAbout the Author
Connie Kleinbeck RN, BSN, CDE is the Inpatient Diabetes Educator at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri.  She has been a CDE since 1986.  She writes articles and speaks about diabetes and disabilities to other health care professionals as frequently as possible.