Diabetes Testing

Testing Survey

Roche Diagnostics, the largest blood glucose meter company, just released the results of a large customer survey on blood glucose testing. The headline on the press release says that almost four out of ten people with diabetes are not testing as often as they should. That’s old news, but the survey has new news, too.

The survey itself is confidential and more carefully classified than any document that crossed my desk when I was a Foreign Service Officer in Washington and Africa. But Roche Diagnostics kindly shared it with me.

Synovate, the market research arm of Aegis Group plc, headquartered in London, England, conducted the consumer opinion panel for Roche Diagnostics. Their sample included 1,002 insulin users to see what their blood testing habits were.

At first, I was surprised to see that about two-thirds of those in the sample have type 2 diabetes and only one-third have type 1. Everybody with type 1 has to use insulin and most with type 2 don’t. Then I belatedly realized that there are a lot more type 2s than type 1s!

The survey presented the panelists with a list of nine barriers to testing. The problems that they most commonly reported were the need to reprick (48 percent) and painful testing (43 percent). I can say “Amen” to that!

What really surprised me were that the fewest people cited the need for too large a blood sample, and having to wait too long for a result. In my articles about meters I have always emphasized sample size and how fast that the meter I was reviewing meter is. It’s true that in the past five years or so this is much less of a problem because just about all meters that we use take just a couple of microliters of blood and give their results in 5 to 15 seconds.

Nobody in the survey cited the cost of meters – or particularly test strips. That’s because this wasn’t one of the nine questions on the survey.

It is true that for one reason or another many people with diabetes don’t test as often as their doctors tell them to and that the American Diabetes Association recommends. People with type 1 need to test three or more times a day, according to The American Diabetes Association’s “Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes–2006”, Almost one-fifth of the type 1s in the survey say that they test once a day or less.

The ADA doesn’t actually say how often type 2s on insulin need to test, just that they should test “more frequently than those not using insulin.” And, the ADA doesn’t say how often those of us who don’t use insulin should test. Even a greater proportion of type 2s in the study say that they test once a day or less.

We are either testing more frequently that we used to or the people who responded to this survey exaggerated the amount of testing they do. For example, the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of people with type 2 diabetes, showed that 29 percent of people with diabetes treated with insulin had never tested their blood glucose or checked it less than once per month.

In the U.K., a study found that 16 percent of the type 1s they followed didn’t get any prescriptions for test strips in the three years of the study. Only 20 percent got enough strips to check even once a day. And, 21 percent of type 2s who used insulin got no strips in three years. Only 17 percent got enough strips to check daily.

People with type 2 diabetes who don’t use insulin test even less. These numbers reflect how little the typical person with diabetes knows about how to take care of himself or herself. In emphasizing how little we test, Roche Diagnostics is doing a great service to those of us with diabetes.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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