Of course, we get excited about new technology and love being able to test drive the latest gadgets. And with my 32 years of type 1 experience, I do appreciate how far we've come. From time to time, I enjoy looking back on the past D-tech to give myself perspective on just how good we have it today.
But as much as I love progress, I'm not a fan of removing basic features that have made our lives with diabetes easier and more flexible in this day and age.
Of course, the whole point of this curvy new white-faced meter is to offer a very prominent "color range indicator" for low, in-range, and high readings (blue, green, red) to help patients who otherwise had trouble interpreting their blood sugar results. What comes to mind are older patients or probably many type 2's who may be less savvy about what the numbers mean than those of us making insulin dosing decisions all day long.
The company touts: "While it has broad appeal as a simple, intuitive meter on its own, patients can also use the meter's built-in Bluetooth Smart Technology to wirelessly connect with the companion OneTouch Reveal mobile app available on compatible iOS and Android mobile devices."
In other words, it's supposed to be a super-simple meter, but with all the latest wireless bells and whistles. Odd combination. It replaces the now-discontinued Verio Sync, which may still be lingering on store and pharmacy shelves.
There are a number of good points about the new Flex, including the low cost and how it's the first to include both iOS and Android comparability with its mobile app. We applaud LifeScan for taking those steps, as well as assuring that this new meter uses existing Verio test strips so patients don't have to grapple with the headache of switching strips to use this device.
It's also worth noting that LifeScan recently sealed a deal with WellDoc, bringing its Verio Flex meter and OneTouch Reveal app together with WellDoc's BlueStar app offering the capability for mobile subscription refills -- all to offer more mobile health solutions for type 2s, per the press release.
Those are noteworthy offerings. But looking at this new device itself, we found some ironies in the plain but sophisticated logic.
The OneTouch Verio Flex
In a nutshell, here's what the new Verio Flex has to offer and what we think about those features:
- Slim, compact design that's easy to slide into a pants or jacket pocket; it fits snugly in the palm of your hand and is very light.
- Large, easy-to-read numbers (in daylight).
- 500-test result memory with date and time.
- Accuracy! We like that Lifescan says this meter goes above and beyond the current accuracy standard 100% of the time, and in our use of this over the course of 10 days, we saw that to be a true statement.
- Uses a replaceable lithium coin battery instead of a recharging cable (although the company claims the battery will last up to one year, yet we found that our seemingly fully-charged review unit lasted only 10 days).
- Bluetooth-enabled so the meter connects automatically to the OneTouch Reveal mobile app, which is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.
- Small amount of blood (0.4 ul) needed for the OneTouch Verio test strips, which is a really tiny sample that can be applied to either the left or right side of the strip.
- Like other meters in this Verio family (the basic Verio, the Verio IQ, and the now-discontinued Verio Sync), it offers pattern recognition and will highlight trends found in your BG patterns.
- Cost: the meter itself is not expensive, retailing at $19.99 over the counter at places like CVS, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart. This is the same cost of the basic Verio meter launched in early 2015. The Verio strips cost roughly $44 over the counter in some of those same spots, and LifeScan points out that these strips are covered by most insurances and Medicare (you can check coverage via the LifeScan site here).
- Great case! Packaged in a black, sturdy zip up case that has a side pouch that keeps all your D-supplies nicely secured inside.
- No Backlight: Seriously, WTH, LifeScan? Although it may sound trivial, this is a huge failing that we suspect will stop most people from buying this meter. When was the last time we saw any glucose meter without a backlight? Maybe a decade ago with the last iterations of the OneTouch Ultra meters...? Years ago, I used the OneTouch UltraLink meter as my go-to BG device. This meter didn't have a backlight and I absolutely detested that fact, but the connectivity to my Medtronic insulin pump trumped that failing. But that was at least seven or eight years ago... you'd think that would have changed by now! At least the OneTouch Reveal app on my smartphone lights up nicely, so I was able to use that brightness to see what I was doing.
- No Port Light: Related to above, how are we supposed to see where the strips go into the meter in dim lighting?! The past Verio IQ and Verio Sync have a port light, but this latest Verio Flex does not. We can't imagine why, as JnJ is surely aware that we pancreatically-challenged device users do actually test our blood sugars at night or in dark places like a theater.
- Battery: I happen to like the fact that this isn't a rechargeable meter. But why not a AAA battery, that's more common and easier to find in stores than those little round watch batteries? We get that they were aiming for a compact design, but seriously -- most meters these days use everyday batteries now. The coin batteries shout "old-school," and feel like a step back in time, especially when combined with the No Backlight/Portlight issue.
- ColorSure Tech: This is where things get really ironic. The company is making a big marketing play about their color indicator, while the actual meter display is black and white and offers no adequate backlighting, or even a port light to use the thing. How are those red/blue/green stripes an advantage, when all the other color and lighting related features have gone back to the Dark Ages?
- Meter Buttons: Moving on, the rubber buttons are a bit flimsy. A number of times, I noticed that they tended to stay compressed after I pushed them, so that I actually had to tap them loose. This could be an issue impacting user experience for sure, not to mention draining the battery.
- Averages: No averages for 7, 14, or 30 days are available on the meter display. You have to use the OneTouch Reveal mobile app for that info, but even that doesn't offer an average for the past 7 days of BG tests.
Interestingly, LifeScan tells us that the name Flex was derived from "flexibility," in that it's aimed at helping PWDs better manage their diabetes on the go.
We're also told the Flex builds off the "mass appeal of the OneTouch Ultra family of meters" that have pretty much all been discontinued to date, although it uses the Verio platform test strips. That seems to put into perspective what this Flex meter's missing, mainly the backlight that most of the Ultra meters never had (except for my fave, the UltraSmart, discontinued in 2012).
The One Touch Reveal App
Despite our issues with the meter, we like this mobile app.
It's pretty similar to what's been out there with the Verio Sync for the past few years, but this was my first personal exposure to it.
From beginning to end, it was simple and easy to use and makes up for a lot of what the meter lacks. I like the pattern views, although as noted above I'd really like to be able to view my 7-day averages on top of the 14, 30 and 90 day trends.
You can add all kinds of info to it, too, like carbs and insulin and exercise. And then you can analyze the various patterns (like the many highs I experienced when taking a short pump hiatus without long-term insulin on board). And it's also cool that you can share the data with your doctor or loved ones, via text messaging and emailing specific results or PDF reports.
Nicely done on the app end, LifeScan!
While the mobile app gets our thumbs up, in the end we give the new Flex meter a thumbs down.
In fact, we're very disappointed to hear that the Verio Sync's been discontinued, since that was the best in this class with meter display, backlight and port light, and mobile app connectivity. And this doesn't feel like an adequate replacement, in many ways.
Bottom line: The Verio Flex seems like one step forward, two steps back.
Still, it is a lower-cost option for people who simply need to test their BGs, and it still offers that mobile app connectivity to boot.
Actually, I have a family friend who just reached out on behalf of a co-worker who was recently diagnosed with type 2, looking for suggestions on meters. I'm thinking I may pass on this Flex meter to him, along with a full vial of test strips I had purchased previously to try out the Verio meters. I'll be curious to hear how someone brand new to T2 reacts to this meter and app.
So there's that. It's another option that can help someone who needs it, and that's always good.