There's another new high-tech glucose meter on block, managing to do what no other like it has done before: sending your diabetes data to a mobile app where you can not only view and share blood sugar results, but also get an insulin dosing calculation based on the reading.
The Accu-Chek Aviva Connect system from Roche Diabetes Care debuted in early August, bringing people with diabetes in the U.S. another wirelessly device that connects to certain iOS and Android mobile devices, automatically sends BG data to the Connect app where you can view it add info like food and exercise notes, and utilize a bolus advisor. You can also email BG reports to youreself and your doctor and send text messages with results or as low alerts.
Actually, this is the second meter Roche has created that offers insulin dosing advice (the first was the Aviva Plus meter), and it's the first to connect via Bluetooth with a mobile app and allow that calculation to happen in real-time on that platform. This is a huge win for people on Multiple Daily Injections (MDI) looking for help calculating their insulin dosing based on blood sugars.
With the direct connection to the glucose meter, this is the first FDA-approved option of its kind. And a new study published this year shows the existing bolus advice apps weren't always accurate. Lack of accuracy certainly been an issue the FDA is exploring, and approval of this new Accu-Chek system with mobile option shows significant progress on this front.
After its release in early August, I was able to purchase an Accu-Chek Connect in my local Walgreens for the purpose of this test drive. Here are my takeaways, after playing with it for about 10 days.
Design: Although it's just plain black, I personally think the Connect meter has a pretty sleek design. It measures 1.5 by 3 inches, just a tad bit bigger than the Accu-Chek Nano meter and smaller than many of the other meters I've used through the years, so it easily fits into a tight pants pocket.
It's also very light. It's not a color screen, but the contrast is great and it lights up brightly with the white-text-on-black very easy to see, even in the dark and when outside in the sun. One improvement I'd like to see is having the strip port be lit up for even better use in the dark. Personally, I also liked the color-coding for in-range (green), low (red) and high (blue).
Meter Data: Like most meters, it has a pretty large storage bank of BG results -- it holds up to 750 tests, and the logbook lets you see 7/14/30/90 averages on the meter itself.
Cost: While the meter is affordable at $29.99 in Walgreens, my only gripe is that it doesn't include any test strips at all in the box. Most others include a handful or even 10 strips to get you started, or at least tide you over until you can buy a vial or box of strips. Not this one. At the same Walgreens, the Aviva Plus strips it uses cost $35 for 25 -- more than the Connect meter itself. But there is a $25 rebate card inside the box, helping out with that initial pricetag of the meter + strips! While I don't plan to submit this to my insurance and am fine with the out-of-pocket cost, I checked to confirm that my private insurance covers both the meter and strips. And if I wanted, I could also get reimbursed from my flexible savings account plan. Good to know.
The Mobile App Experience
Of course, the big marketing appeal of this meter (and most these days) is the mobile connectivity. With the Accu-Chek Connect's built-in Bluetooth naturally you don't need any connection cables to send the data from your meter to a compatible smartphone.
*Key User Tip: Be sure to check in advance whether your particular phone or iPad is one of the compatible models. I stupidly didn't check before buying, and none of the three Android phones we have at home worked with the Connect. So I had to use my iPad instead, which isn't something I always carry with me.
- Setup: It's pretty simple to get started, although you do need to have a Roche Accu-Chek Connect account online in order to start using the mobile app. It only took me a few minutes to register, and then I entered my registration info on the app and I was good to go.
- Connectivity: I've heard reports that this new system is sometimes glitchy when beaming data to phones or mobile devices, but that wasn't a problem most of the time with my iPad. It shared data within about 20 seconds, even from a room away in my house. And yes, if I wasn't near my mobile device when testing, the meter stores that data and then later shares all of the missed results as soon as it reconnects.
- Manual BGs: I also liked the fact that on the iPad mobile app, I could manually enter blood sugar results from other meters or devices like my Dexcom CGM. It doesn't offer the same Bolus Advisor option with those non-Connect results, but this is definitely a plus for people who use more than one meter.
- User-friendly: You can generate a whole bunch of reports that give you different charts and graphs of your diabetes data. I like how the app allows you to take pictures of your food that will appear along with the carb count, insulin dosing, and BG trends at the time, as well as any other notes about exercise or mood. It also shows you detected BG trends, such as how often you're in target range overall or even by meal (something that helped me, as I have been struggling with evening BGs following dinner time).
- Logbook: You can simply scroll through your results, or even connect the dots, to draw some conclusions. "Oh, my blood sugar was 99 before having some Chinese food for dinner, and the 7 units I took didn't seem to work because I went up above 250 within a few hours. Maybe I should adjust that."
- Data Sharing: You can email all the reports to yourself, your doctor or anyone you choose. On the Android and iPhone app versions, you can plug in phone numbers where you want the BG data sent. Roche tells us the Android can then automatically send results when you test, but with the iPhone you must confirm the data-sharing option each time.
This is the big one, Folks. The feature that makes it truly unique, so it deserves its own section here. But it comes with a caveat:
- Unlock Code: In order to use the Bolus Advisor feature, you need a specific Health Care Provider (HCP) code -- and depending on how hip your doctor's office is to this new device, it could take some time for them to obtain a code from Roche to provide you. Thankfully my new endo is one of the more informed and tech-savvy diabetes docs in the country (post coming tomorrow on this), so I only had to wait a few days.
- Manual Entry / Limits: As noted, you can manually enter BGs into the app, but you can't use the Bolus Advisor with these manually entered test results. Also, once a result is transmitted automatically from the Connect meter to the app, you have 10 minutes to use the Bolus Advisor before that result times out and you'd need to do a fresh test.
- Correction Calcs: An important note for those who might be tempted to compare this bolus dosing advice to other calculators like the Medtronic bolus wizard for example: don't do it! Accu-Chek Connect calculates differently, because its Bolus Advisor corrects to the middle of your target range (so if you're going for 80-120, it will correct to 100 mg/dL) -- whereas others like my Medtronic pump bolus wizard will correct to the top of that range.
- Food Adjustments: When dosing for food, this AC advisor also factors in a programmable rate for how much your blood sugar may jump up. The default is 70 mg/dL, which Roche says is typical for most patients, but doctors can offer better guidance on what level might be best set here.
Verdict: Good Start
In addition to using the Connect app, you can also log in to the Accu-Chek online software system to get even more data-viewing options.
But the system does not integrate with Apple HealthKit right now, so you wouldn't be able to send your Connect data to an Apple watch to view alongside other health-related data. Unlike the Dexcom CGM data-sharing or Medtronic's new Connect system, for example, you also can't send the data to a pebble watch and there don't seem to be any plans being discussed for integration with Tidepool or other data platforms to make it part of a more open system.That's unfortunate.
In fact, the Connect system does not even connect with other Bluetooth Accu-Chek products at this time, but you can connect those dots on the backend by using the online software. OK... We hope to see Accu-Chek develop a more 360-degree view of its products going forward.
Overall, I liked using the Accu-Chek Connect meter and think it's a great option for many people, because it is one of the most basic, easy-to-use meters that still includes important mobile and data-viewing and sharing features all in one package.
Roche could certainly improve its integration with other products, including its own, but we're hoping this Accu-Chek Connect can serve as a good starting point for that.