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Ed Bryant

New Talking Blood Glucose Monitor and Insulin Identifier

by Ed Bryant

From the Editor: This article first appeared in the Voice of the Diabetic, Volume 13, Number 4, Fall 1998, published by the Diabetes Action Network of the National Federation of the Blind. Ed Bryant is the President of the Network and the Voice Editor.

This is what he has to say about an exciting new product:

Roche Diagnostics-Boehringer Mannheim Corporation, in conjunction with Eli Lilly and Company, has developed a new talking blood glucose monitor. Based on the proven Accu-Chek Advantage meter, the new, extremely user-friendly Accu-Chek Voicemate incorporates many features of interest to the blind diabetic or to any diabetic who cannot depend on vision for daily blood glucose monitoring.

Usable with any Accu-Chek Advantage meter, the Accu-Chek Voicemate is a docking station, a larger box into which the Advantage meter is inserted. Without cords or cables the Voicemate then provides the following features:

* Clear, high-quality speech synthesis, talking the user through preparations, test procedures, and results without the need for sighted assistance.

* An insulin-vial identifier, which reads Lilly insulin vials and speaks their type as a safety aid in tactile insulin mixing.

* A new, improved test strip, the Accu-Chek Comfort Curve.

* No meter cleaning required.

* A new code-key system for programming test strip codes.

* Three-year warranty.

The Accu-Chek Voicemate was officially launched at the annual convention of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last August. I was present, so I was able to inspect its features in detail. Now I have a Voicemate of my own, and I am continuing to test it. At this time it is the easiest meter for a blind diabetic to use, facilitating far more independence in diabetes self-management than was possible before.

At the top rear of the Voicemate (which measures 6.5 inches long by 3 inches wide by 2.5 inches high and weighs 12.5 ounces), there is a small hole, just right for the insertion of an insulin vial. Vials of Lilly insulin bear a bar code that the machine detects and reads, telling you which insulin type (such as R, N, Humalog, etc.) is being tested. This is a tremendous improvement over impermanent tactile vial identification methods such as rubber bands or masking tape. If you need this information, you can simply press the big round button on the left; the meter will tell you: "Insert vial and rotate," then "Vial detected." It will tell you to "Reverse rotate," and then it will read your Lilly insulin vial.

As I said, the Voicemate uses the familiar Accu-Chek Advantage meter, which can be detached from the Voicemate for conventional (sighted) use. If the Voicemate requires servicing or if your Advantage meter needs to be replaced, the switch is simple and easy. Previously-produced Advantage meters are compatible with the Voicemate system.

The Accu-Chek Voicemate system comes with a new test strip. The Accu-Chek Comfort Curve is a tremendous improvement over other meters. It requires four microliters of blood for a test, far less than needed by most meters. The strip projects from the meter and is more advanced than any offered with previous talking meters. Blood can be dropped, dabbed, smeared—anything that gets it on the strip. And the strip has an easy-to-feel tactile cutout, to help you find the right spot. Once you get there, the strip draws in the blood—you don't drip on the meter. No more meter cleaning! Best of all, the Comfort Curve strips are compatible with existing Accu-Chek Advantage meters (and existing Advantage strips will work with the Voicemate).

With most meters, when you start a new bottle of strips, you need to program in the strips' reference code. With the Voicemate, this is very simple. With each bottle of Comfort Curve strips, Roche-Boehringer supplies a code key, which is inserted into the back of the Voicemate, automatically setting the code. When you start a new batch of strips, you must change code keys. For the first time ever, no sighted assistance is necessary to program the strips' reference code into the meter. All previous talking glucose monitors required sighted assistance at this stage.

Those who remember the old Freedom System will be very pleasantly surprised. The Voicemate is far more transportable. It weighs just 12.5 ounces, with batteries (9V for the talk-box and two 3V lithium button cells for the meter), and even though it is a small unit, its voice (when you turn it up) is loud, clear, and high-quality. There is an earphone for private listening as needed. The Advantage's optical (screen) display is clear and large, with numerals fourteen millimeters (approximately 5/8 of an inch) tall. And the unit turns itself off after five minutes.

The Voicemate comes with an adjustable over-the-shoulder carrying case (I tried it), with meter, voice box, batteries, adapter cord, ten Comfort Curve strips, earphone, insulin check-vial, manual and quick-reference guide (in large print), and clear, reasonably thorough instructions on audiocassette. NOTE:

The pre-release model I inspected had ambiguous instructions about very low or high readings. I hope later versions of the print and tape instructions will rectify this. Also included is the Accu-Chek Softclix lancing device and a packet of ten lancets. While not a new item, the Softclix is of high quality and allows adjustment for depth of lancet-penetration.

In the past Boehringer Mannheim meters were available only through company sales representatives. The new meter, catalog #2030802, can now be ordered through any pharmacy (suggested retail price $495-$525). Have your pharmacist contact Roche Diagnostics, 9115 Hague Road, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250, telephone: (800) 428-5076.

Medicare reimburses for purchase of home blood glucose monitors for diabetics. It lists them as "Durable Medical Equipment" and provides two reimbursement codes. Code EO607 is for conventional home glucose monitors, and code EO609 is for monitors with voice synthesis or voice boxes for existing monitors. The amount reimbursed varies from state to state, but in Missouri it is up to approximately $490 for a talking meter like the Voice Mate. If you are eligible for Medicare, diabetic (type 1 or type 2), and at least legally blind, you should be eligible for reimbursement, with your doctor's written statement. Similarly, Medicare will now reimburse beneficiaries for monitor test strips—Your doctor's prescription (written before purchase) for the strips must state that you are diabetic, how many strips you need, how often each day you will test, and whether or not you use insulin. Medicare will not honor a prescription for test strips that merely states "as needed."