As soon as I opened the box of this brand new Bluetooth-enabled glucose meter, I was impressed with the attractive look of this device. Yes, it's plain black and white, but like a traditional tuxedo, you can't go wrong with its classic, sleek style.
And in this case, the name kinda says it all: the ForaCare Test N' Go meter. This thing has it going on.
This new meter debuted in Europe under the name Diamond more than a year ago, but the company wanted to change the name to Test N' Go, so that delayed the launch here in the States to this February -- despite the fact that it got FDA approval back in 2012.
It's created by health tech company ForaCare, based in Newbury Park, CA, which is a division of the global chronic health device company Taidoc in Taiwan (which also runs ForaCare Suisse AG in Switzerland). The company's other medical products include home blood pressure and hypertension testers, and several blood glucose meters that include the inexpensive Premium v10 meter.
Test N' Go is a clever name for a new glucose meter, I'll admit -- implying super-convenient, no-fuss blood sugar testing anywhere you may be. And company execs say the word "fora" is Chinese for beautiful, so there you go.
But the big draw is supposedly Bluetooth connectivity, allowing for wireless transmission from the meter to any iOS or Android device and data viewing through a user-friendly app or on a web-based browser.
Bluetooth meters are becoming more common, but while they generally look good, they often aren't as easy to use as the vendors claim. Some require you to plug in a whole other device to get the Bluetooth benefit, while others require you to use a different phone than the one you carry with you all the time. In other words, many are more hassle than they're worth.
Not the case with the Test N' Go, I found. After a few days of using it, I'm very impressed with the overall accuracy and operability of its Bluetooth connectivity to my Droid Mini. I think this meter does deliver when it comes to use and easy connectivity, with the only downside being that it isn't yet widely accessible to people who might want to buy it or have it covered by insurance right now.
Trial-Run: Test N' Go
First off, this meter is very thin and light, measuring just a little longer than my index finger. It requires just a noticeably tiny bit of blood (.5 microliters). The meter stores up to 450 blood sugar results and lets you see averages for up to 90 days. Oh, and it also has a backlight so you can use it at night or in movie theaters with no trouble, and like many modern meters it has a rechargeable battery that uses a USB or plug-in adapter. The only thing that made me scratch my head at first was during setup, when I had to actually turn the meter over and find a sharp pencil tip to push the little reset button in order to set the time and date and get started (hint hint, ForaCare: please make this easier to set up!).
You just press the main silver button and the image of a little blood drop appears on the screen letting you know to test and apply blood, and then about five seconds later you get the result.
ForaCare tells us that Test N'Go meter actually meets both the current and proposed accuracy guidelines for meter accuracy, so results should be within 15% of the true value (!) And indeed, I found the Test N' Go results weren't far off from my Bayer Contour Next meter and actually matched up almost exactly to my Dexcom G4 CGM a number of times.
To pair this meter with your smartphone or tablet, you download the iFora Diabetes Manager app, which is free in iTunes and on Google Play. And then yoy just click on the app for quick automatic syching with your device after each BG test. However, I noticed that the synching didn't happen automatically after a few of my tests, so I just pushed the "manual import" tag on the touchscreen and all was well.
Personally, I think the iFora app is pretty user-friendly. It of course features charts and pie-graphs that show your averages during the past week and how many blood sugar results are within the pre-set Low, Normal, or High ranges. You can view your results in line or chart form by individual blood sugar, day, week or longer periods of 14 and 30 days. And like many other apps these days, it allows you to share with people on Facebook or by email (not yet Twitter, though).
ForaCare's sales and marketing chief Doug Kuzyk says this iFora app didn't require FDA approval because it only supports data logging, but it was listed with the regulatory agency as it does include diabetes and medical information. Apple of course approves all apps before allowing them in the iTunes store, and there have already been several upgrades, he said.
In contrast to other new Bluetooth meters like the OneTouch VerioSync and iHealth BG5 meters (which we reviewed here), Kuzyk says the Test N' Go uses its own HIPPA-compliant cloud to store results instantly and make them viewable by not only the person with diabetes, but selected individuals including a doctor, caregiver or loved one.
"You can see in real-time if someone is testing and if their results are out of range," he said. "Since it's Bluetooth, there is no need to plug in or transmit. It all happens seamlessly and you just log in to see the results."
Of course we've started seeing more and more meters and diabetes tools allowing you to do just this: log in online and view data. But so far this Test N'Go does seem to stand out as far as ease. Unfortunately, it doesn't wirelessly communicate with any other devices like insulin pumps or CGMs, so right now it is a stand-alone resource that you can use to check blood sugars and log and share them with no need for manual entry.
Cost and Availability?
Sadly, where this meter falls short is probably one of the most important areas -- accessibility.
The meter itself will cost $85, and Kuzyk tells us the free app and web-based portal is built into the cost. And the proprietary test strips will be about $75 for a box of 50. But it won't be as simple as finding the meter and strips in your local pharmacy, and it doesn't look like insurance companies are covering this meter right now. So, we're talking about straight-up cash purchases from a small number of distributors.
Not what customers want to hear when they're looking for a new meter to try.
Kuzyk tells us that availability is limited right now simply because of the very recent launch last month, and that ForaCare is in the process of setting up distribution centers all over the country, starting in California, and then Carolinas, before eventually moving into the Texas and Florida markets and beyond.
"Test N' Go would only be covered by Open Formulary Insurances today. These include consumers with Platinum Health Plans who are covered for any blood glucose meter and strip," Kuzyk says. "We are in the process of meeting with many Health Plans to add this to their offering. This is a very slow process, so there will be limited coverage for the first year post-launch."
For now, you can only find the Test N' Go through these mail-order services: Solara Medical Supplies in California, Advanced Diabetes Supplies in CA, Mini Pharmacy in CA, and Drugco in North Carolina.
Apparently, WebMD is launching an online store in the coming months and the Fora Test N' Go meter will be one of the few connected that you can buy there online. Kuzyk says WebMD wants to market this new store and its own app to healthcare providers, and ForaCare is of course hoping that new platform will strengthen its reach among doctors and insurance companies.
This is especially appealing for them in terms of other ForaCare products being developed, such as a combination app that will allow people to combine their data from weight, blood pressure and glucose monitoring all into one place (!)
We like the Test N' Go and think it works well, but with the limited accessibility and likelihood that insurance won't pay for this meter or strips, it doesn't look like a promising start to getting this meter into the U.S. market mainstream.