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A Meter That Talks Sense

By David Mendosa

Last Update: February 14, 2007

If you can read Diabetes Health, you don’t need a SensoCard Plus meter. But there’s too good a chance that someone in your family or a friend does.

Talking meters for the visually impaired

The SensoCard Plus helps people who are blind or visually impaired by speaking out their blood glucose results. It talks.

Move than three million Americans who have diabetes are visually impaired, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than one-third of us have diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness unless treated.

The SensoCard Plus is coming to America, but it’s not here yet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration started its review in September, according to Bill Cunningham of Cunningham Diagnostics in Sunderland, England.

However, a company in Budapest, Hungary, named 77 Elektronika manufactures the meter. This company is not as well-known as it should be, because it sells most of its meters internationally through distributors that put their own brand names on them. “Cunningham Diagnostics is our distributor for Great Britain and United States,” according to Christian Moldoványi, 77 Elektronika’s international sales manager.

This meter is truly tiny. It’s not for nothing that they call it a card. It is almost exactly the size of a dozen of my credit cards (don’t ask why I have so many) and weighs about the same, 2.6 ounces.

This little meter has perhaps even more impressive specifications. It takes only a 0.5 microliter drop of blood and returns a result in 5 seconds. Only Abbott’s FreeStyle, Becton Dickenson’s Logic, and Medtronic MiniMed’s Paradign Link meters take less blood, and no other meter works faster.

The SensorCard Plus doesn’t just talk. Like regular meters it has a large screen display that people helping the visually impaired can use. One large button controls the meter. Its memory holds 500 tests that you can download to a PC with the help of an additional device called the LiteLink. Instead of using visual cues, you calibrate the meter’s test strips with a code card.

In my evaluation of the SensoCard Plus my main concern was the documentation. The owner’s manual is poorly written (or poorly translated from Hungarian). Of course, the meter also comes with an audio version of the manual, but it too is inadequate. “The tape needs to be ‘Americanised’ and I am in the process of doing this,” Bill tells me.

When the SensoCard Plus becomes available in the U.S., it will be a great gift for someone who needs it.

Sidebar: The Other Talkies
When the SensoCard Plus arrives in the U.S., it is likely to be less expensive than the leading alternative. In England the meter kit sells for £149 or about $260. A box of 50 test strips retail for £23.50 or about $40. The price in the U.S. hasn’t been set.

Roche’s Accu-Chek Voicemate was once the top talking meter on the American market now. But compared to the SensoCard Plus it was bigger and heavier  —  and considerably more expensive. It retailed for $500 to $600. But according to correspondence from Roche, it has now been discontinued.

The less well-known alternatives are the Captek/Science Products’ Digi-Voice Deluxe at $275 and Mini-DV at about $220. Both of these work only with the old LifeScan Basic and LifeScan SureStep meters.

Another Sidebar: The Prodigy Meter
Diagnostic Devices Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina, has just introduced a new talking blood glucose meter called the Prodigy. This remarkable little meter not only talks, but uses only 0.6 microliters of blood and tells your results in seven seconds.

Taidoc Technology Corporation in San Chung, Taipei, manufactures the meter and in August 2005 obtained FDA 510(k) clearance to market it in the United States. Taidoc private labels the Prodigy for Diagnostic Devices, which has exclusive rights to sell it in the United States. 


This article originally appeared in Diabetes Health, March 2006, page 52.


Update

A reader, Steve in Princeton, N.J., writes that those who would benefit from talking glucose meters may also benefit from talking bathroom scales. A good one, he says, is the “Talking Phoenix” manufactured by MyWeigh. He says that they produce sturdy, reliable, highly functional and moderately priced scales, and for the past three years has happily used not only their talking bathroom scale, but also one of their kitchen scale models and one of their line of miniscales.


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