Of the four companies that dominate the blood glucose meter business in the United States, we are happiest with Roche Diagnostics, according to a new scientific survey. Number two was Abbott Laboratories, third was Bayer, and pulling up last was LifeScan.
But two of the particular meters that LifeScan makes rank among the three favorite meters. Those few people in the survey who use the OneTouch UltraLink or the OneTouch Vario liked it a lot as did the small sample size of people who rated Bayer’s Contour Next Link.
“The difference in customer satisfaction between Roche and LifeScan was statistically significant,” Rick Johnson, director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, told me in a phone interview yesterday. The other differences among product lines and particular meters could be by chance.
The survey is based on responses this summer from 2,026 adults or parents of children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who use a meter made by one of the four largest manufacturers. The “big four” sell three-fourths of the blood glucose meters in the U.S.
The Big Four Dominate Formularies
Meters from one or two these four companies are the only ones available in the formularies of essentially all health insurance companies. “Number 5 is so far down the line,” Mr. Johnson told me, that it doesn’t count.
Roche Diagnostics, which is division of the Swiss healthcare company F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, makes Accu-Chek meters, including the Aviva Plus that I use. Roche moved up to first position from fourth in last year’s J.D. Power survey. Worldwide, Roche is the market leader in blood glucose meters.
In the U.S., however, LifeScan has the biggest market share. That may be changing as its customer satisfaction overall dropped from second to last place among the big four. LifeScan is a member of the Johnson & Johnson “family of companies.”
Satisfaction for Bayer Drops
Customer satisfaction with meters from Bayer dropped from first place last year. I wonder if its poor performance is related to Bayer’s decision to stop working with those of us who have diabetes, and Mr. Johnson said he didn’t know they were connected.
Bayer AG, a German company, announced in June that it is selling its blood glucose meter and test strip business to Panasonic Healthcare, which the U.S. private equity firm KKR controls. Last year Bayer sold its A1CNow testing business to PTS Diagnostics.
The measures of customer satisfaction were six weighted factors:
Performance, 26 percent; ease of use, 24 percent; design, 20 percent; features, 19 percent; cost of test strips, 6 percent; and training; five percent.
I asked Mr. Johnson how he decided the weighing of these factors. “We didn’t,” he replied. “The data decided it.” It depended on how many people that they surveyed emphasized one factor or another.
Accuracy Doesn’t Count
Noting that accuracy isn’t one of these factors, I asked Mr. Johnson why not. The lack of meter accuracy has been one of my big concerns for the last two decades.
“I don’t know if our respondents would know to rate that unless they had readings that were wildly out of range,” he replied. “Only a lab with sophisticated machinery could answer that.”
That is the next study of blood glucose meters that we need the most.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
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