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Diabetes Testing

Contour USB Meter

Until now, the improvements in the blood glucose meters that all of us who have diabetes use have been tiny steps forward. In the 40 years since the Ames Reflectance Meter — our first blood glucose meter — came on the market, these little changes have added up to much greater convenience. And now a new meter is here that takes us so much further that I’m having a hard time to decide which improvements I should write about.

Fittingly, this meter comes from Bayer Diabetes Care. Bayer is one of the four leading meter manufacturers in the United States (the others are LifeScan with its OneTouch meters, Roche with its Accu-Chek meters, and Abbott with its TheraSense meters). It’s fitting because a company that is now part of Bayer made the first meter.

Less fitting, I think, is the name of the new meter. Bayer calls it the Contour USB. The original Contour meter has been around for five years. While it was the first meter that we didn’t have to code its test strips, calling the new meter the Contour USB seemed to be rather ho-hum at first.

And after using the Contour USB for the first time today, it seems even more of a misnomer. This is a stunning meter.

Bayer’s New Contour USB Blood Glucose Meter

Sure, the Contour USB has the same no-coding technology that the Contour pioneered. And indeed it has a USB connection, but it’s hardly the first. Ten years ago when all of our blood glucose meters had serial rather than USB connections that would have been news.

And for years I have been arguing that our meters need an easy way to separate out before meal and after meal readings. Otherwise, we can’t track relevant changes in our levels with software. A couple of others will let us tease out these readings, but none half as easily as the Contour USB. This meter even has built in alarms that you can change or turn off.

Even more important is the built-in Glucofacts Deluxe software. If you have a modern computer, just plug the Coutour USB meter in to a USB port, automatically loading the software.

That’s a big if. This new meter is so advanced that computers even a few years old won’t work with it.

First, you have to used a high powered USB port.

Second, in order to run Glucofacts Deluxe you need either a PC with Windows XP SP3 or Vista SP2 or a Mac with an Intel 64 bit processor. Neither of my Macs is powerful enough, not even my laptop that I bought just 3 and 1/2 years ago.

This week I will be getting the new quad-core i7 iMac to replace my desktop computer. I will add an update to this post then.

The Contour USB meter is certainly fast, taking just five seconds to test. It takes a very small blood sample, just 0.6 microliters. Nowadays, we take those specs for granted.

But among the new features, this meter has the first rechargeable battery. It has an easy-to-read bright and colorful display and a lighted test strip port, making testing in the dark possible.

And this is a small meter. It weights just 1.75 ounces and is 3 and 3/4 inches long by 1 and 1/4 inches wide. So far, at least, it’s available only in black.

Bayer provides a summary of the Contour USB’s precision data based on a study of five blood specimens with glucose levels ranging from 42 to 340 mg/dl. Using 100 samples tested with multiple Contour USB meters and one lot of Contour test strips returned results in terms of standard deviation (SD) and coefficient of variation. An expert on statistics interpreted the results as follows:

“The chart tells first the SD of the various levels of the instrument 44, 64, 132, 204, and 332 mg/dl blood sugar,” he wrote. “Then we have standard error at these levels are 0.10, 0.14, 0.18, 0.35, and 0.38 rspectively (if N=100, Std error = SD/Sq rt of SD or in this case SD/10). The coefficient of variation gives you a better picture, and that represents the SD roughly as a percent of each level, e.g. 1.0/44 mg/dl is rougly a 2.4% ‘error.’ Two to three times that percentage on either side of the measurement might be expected by chance. At the high end, the percent error is about half what it is a the low end, e.g., 3.8/332 mg/dl, roughly a 1.2% “error”. Again, two to three times that percentage could be expected by chance.

“All that means is that a measurement of 44 could represent an actual blood
sugar of anywhere between 41 and 47 mg/dl (at a 99% confidence level,
~3.00 SD for a not quite normal distribution). Similarly, a measurement of
332 could mean a blood sugar of anywhere between 320 and 346 mg/dl. Not
too bad at either end, I think.”
The Contour USB is just becoming available. Walgrens will start offering it on Wednesday for $74.99.

This is a meter for people serious about controlling their diabetes. Especially for those who just found out that they have diabetes and for those who use insulin, this meter is the way to go.

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

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  • chris w at

    There is a version of the software for Mac OS 10.6 available on their web site and it’s worked well for me so far.

  • John at

    One thing to try.. Get the firmware updates for the countour USB even if you have to use a windows computer or VM.. This seems to have resolved some of the OS compatibility issues I had with win 7 and have been told it might help Mac users as well..

    This meter has a few good ideas, but the one feature even more than its connectivity I like is its Reminder Alarm system.. you can set an alarm to go off X number of hours and minutes after a glucose test (to remind you to do it again).. It makes sense, you can adjust the time so if you want to sleep or want a second bolus to finish taking effect it will go off.. Wish they used a brighter (and pref. white) led to light the strip port.. and a more durable plastic protecting the beautiful display

  • chris w at

    I purchased this meter soon after it was released, but still can’t use the Glucofacts software as it still does not run on Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Every attempt to get an answer from Bayer results in being transferred around to different departments. It would be a really nice product if I could use the data collection features I purchased it for!

  • precision blood glucose test strips at

    Wow. This sounds like a really cool idea, even if it sounds like they might not quite be there yet. Yay for steps forward to a brighter future of diabetes testing!

  • L. Paul Teague at

    I purchased this meter. It does not work with the latest version of the Mac Snow Leopard operating system. I called Bayer and they confirmed that it would not work with the latest version. They did not know if and when this problem would be fixed.