If people with diabetes know where to look, they can find reams of educational materials on using blood glucose meters. This information might even persuade you to start testing.
I started by canvassing all the local resources I could think of — doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and libraries. Maybe we are particularly deprived here in Boulder, but I struck out.
‘Few patients actually do glucose testing’
Then I called the national offices of the two largest diabetes organizations — the American Diabetes Association at 1 (800) 342-2383 and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International at 1 (800) 533-2873. Each of these groups sent me a diabetes information packet that includes a short brochure on testing.
The next step was to contact the customer service people at the meter companies. But I failed to get any pamphlets through them.
It wasn’t until I started looking around the websites of the major meter manufacturers that I hit pay dirt. All of the meter companies have excellent resources. They are sometimes specific to their products, but the more interesting ones are general guidelines, like Accu-Chek’s “Top Ten Ways to Ease the Pain of Testing.” In addition, the spokespeople for the meter companies told me that their sales reps regularly set up diabetes education programs with some healthcare professionals. They also make useful monitoring information available by email on request.
But all this is not enough, say endocrinologist William Quick and Stephanie Schwartz, a registered nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator. Dr. Quick is a past president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and medical director of diabetesmonitor.com. Ms. Schwartz has been involved in diabetes education since 1979 and is executive director of diabetesmonitor.com.
One of the missing resources, they say, are sample meters and strips in nurse educators’ offices. When people with diabetes can try out different meters, they can decide which features are important to them.
Another missing element, Dr. Quick says, is a comparison of the available meters. “Except for annual feature comparisons in one or two magazines, there is little out there.”
He thinks that the meter companies need to market their meters more aggressively for the benefit of people with diabetes as well as the companies themselves. The meter companies have great materials online, he says, but he doesn’t see much elsewhere. “The odd thing for me,” Dr. Quick says, “is that if they made a bigger push they could dig into that terrible statistic of how few patients are actually doing blood glucose testing.”
Recent studies in both the U.S. and U.K. reported in the professional journals confirm Dr. Quick’s concern. One study, the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of people with type 2 diabetes, showed that only 39 percent of people using insulin test at least once a day. And only 5 to 6 percent of people treated with oral medicine or diet alone test at least that often. It’s clear that both the diabetes community and those companies that serve us could be doing much better.
This article originally appeared in Diabetes Health’s “Diabetes Educational Resource Guide,” Fall 2005.
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