Every once in a while, a new glucose meter is introduced that really "steps outside the box" and offers something unique.

That seems to be the case with the newest meter from Roche Diabetes Care, Accu-Chek Guide, offering some great practical features from tweaks to make carrying and using test strips easier, to improved lighting on the meter, and an on-board insulin dosing calculator.

While the meter device itself looks nearly identical to the model Roche launched last year, the new Guide version with these really nice convenience features shows the company's willingness to listen to people with diabetes, and get creative about it.

Approved by the FDA on Aug. 31 (after a little over four months of review) the Accu-Chek Guide meter should be available to patients internationally very soon, and in the US by early 2017. They tell us the price point remains TBD until closer to launch.

DESIGNED FOR CONVENIENCE

Here are some of the standout features of the new Accu-Chek Guide meter:

Spill-Resistant SmartPack Vial: Thanks to a newly-designed black flip-top oval vial that's slimmer than the traditional round design, you can take out a single strip at a time without spilling them. Actually, you could tip the entire vial upside-down without any of the strips falling out onto the floor (!). That's due to a built-in "strip channel" that holds the test strips securely in place, making it spill-resistant but easy to remove a single strip at a time. This may seem like a cosmetic change, but by golly... it's pretty huge in that it's the first time any meter manufacturer has recognized the annoyance of dealing with loose strips tumbling out and endeavored to find a solution! This shows the company has practical daily BG checking and convenience in mind.

"We're trying to meet a previously-unmet customer need, as to fumbling with strips," says Roche product launch leader Tiffani Cook. "It can be harder to get strips out of the vial if you have bigger fingers too, and they can be spilled and even contaminated. So we're trying to have less hassle and waste with this."

Bigger Blood Drop Area: There's a larger area for your drop of blood to go on the strip -- 2 to 4 times larger than 10 other brand name strips, according to company specs. Also, each Guide strip has a broad bright yellow edge, anywhere on which the blood can be deposited. The strips also show blood drop icons to direct people where to apply the blood -- given that some test strips out there have varying designs with the blood going directly on the top while others collect samples on the edge.

Strip Ejector: Just push a button on the side of the meter and the test strip automatically pops out of the slot. Roche says this is a way to help dispose of the strips more easily with less chance of blood rubbing off as it can when users have to manually remove the strip themselves.

Better Accuracy: Yes, it's not all about making strips easier to carry and use. Roche states the new Guide meter and strips are more accurate than any of their Accu-Chek products currently on the market, and our own review of accuracy data proves it's one of the most accurate of any meter here in the US going beyond regulatory standards! Clinical lab tests have shown that with the lowest glucose readings below 75 mg/dL, it hits accuracy of 100% of results being within +/-10% standard, and two-thirds are within roughly five mg/dL points. On everything above that low threshold, results are all within the current 20% accuracy standard and 95% of them are even within the tighter ~10% standard.

Port Light: Hey, for all of those night owls and folks who hate checking BGs in darker places -- this meter is for you! Unlike most of the products on the market, Guide offers a feature that automatically lights up the test strip port when you insert a strip. Or you can just hit the OK/On button to activate the light, and it stays on until you insert the strip and apply the blood. Of course, Guide also has a traditional bright backlight for the screen.

Connectivity: This is the second Low Energy Bluetooth meter from Roche, following its Accu-Chek Aviva Connectmeter launched in 2015. Both can be paired with the Accu-Chek Connect mobile app, allowing you to have your glucose readings automatically sent to a smartphone.

Patterns and Insulin Dosing: The Accu-Chek Guide offers on-board pattern detection that helps people better recognize Lows and Highs. This information is shown on both the meter and in the app as the percentage of Lows and Highs in the morning, mid-day, evening and overnight. It also provides an insulin dosing calculator within the app, allowing you to determine how much insulin you might need based on the reading and carb count info. This is an excellent addition for anyone not using a pump, to have that Bolus Wizard feature built right into the BG meter-connected mobile app.

USER FEEDBACK & CONNECTIVITY

Roche tells us more clinicial studies were done on this Guide meter than any of its past products, and product manager Cook says it's been more than two years in the works. Study data shows people like using the new SmartPack vial 88% more than traditional circular strip vials, and feedback from some folks already using the product abroad is very positive.

As noted, this isn't the first Roche meter to offer LE Bluetooth, as the Accu-Chek Connect meter has that connectiviity. But the Guide meter was designed specifically so that LE Bluetooth and the new port light won't drain the battery life, we're told. This meter will allow for up to 2,000 tests with an unpaired meter to a smartphone, or as a general rule the battery life will last for about 750 tests.

Roche proudly points out that this new product also meets the Continua standard for interoperability, but of course that has been criticized as not going far enough. In fact, the Guide currently only talks with Roche's own mobile app and web portal -- not with any other platforms or devices.

Hoping for some hint at the future pipeline -- from the Accu-Chek Insight insulin pump available outside the US and the ever-elusive Solo patch pumpacquired but never launched -- we asked if this new Guide meter might be compatible with any products "not currently available within the US."

That would be a No, according to communications director Anne Gill: "At this time the Accu-Chek Guide only communicates with the Accu-Chek Connect app and our diabetes management solutions such as Accu-Chek 360˚ Diabetes management Software."

OK, so listening to patient community feedback has only gone so far to date.

THANKS FOR LISTENING

Despite the limited connectivity, we'd like to thank Roche Diabetes for introducing these changes -- which may seem trivial to some, in light of serious issues of access and cost -- but these design improvements do illustrate that industry is listening to our real-world frustrations and taking steps to solve them.

This harks back to 2010, when following the first Roche Social Media Summit, when the company changed its marketing materials to show more realistic BG readings, rather than just ideal 104s.

We believe that "getting real" about diabetes goes a long way, in fostering goodwill and frankly, creating better products that people will appreciate.

We look forward to trying out the Accu-Chek Guide meter when it's available.