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  1. Review: Contour USB

    Monday, 5 April 2010

    I've been holding off on this a little while, because I wanted to give it my full attention. I didn't want to rush into a review without considering what I was going to say.

    Overall, I'm impressed with all the great features that the meter offers, and I'm going to try and be pretty thorough in this review! You might want to grab yourself a drink before you start reading.

    I have been extremely excited about the release of this meter. From everything I'd heard from those in the US, and those who had seen advance versions, I was expecting great things. So when Bayer contacted me and asked me if I would like a complimentary one in exchange for an unbiased review, I jumped at the chance.

    I will say that I haven't been using the meter long, and that my opinion might change as I use it long term, but these are my impressions at the present time.

    Blood Glucose Meter
    Opening the box, I will admit that I was expecting the meter itself to be smaller. Possibly because I hadn't really seen it pictured in relation to anything. Yet, it's still markedly smaller than my Contour, which love it as I may, I have always found to be a touch on the bulky side.

    Appearance wise, it's very sleek, and if you were conscious of bringing out your meter in public, this would be a very sensible choice of kit for you. Streamline and smart, you could easily mistake it for an MP3 player or similar. I would have liked the option of a covering film for the screen, to prevent scratches, or a silicone 'skin' to protect it in a similar vein to what I use on my MP3 player. It's not a drawback to the meter, but perhaps it is something Bayer could think about offering further down the line - I'm sure that there would be a market for it - everyone likes the option of making thing customisable.

    Along with the meter, you get a case, which looks as though it will be hard-wearing. I have found it difficult to zip up without the meter popping out, but that could just be me, more than a fault in design! Along with the case, you get a pot of strips, testing solution, a USB extension lead, which is a nice extra touch (you can also register for a free wall charger), and the Microlet 2 lancing device. It also comes with multicoloured lancets, which excited me more than should be appropriate for a twenty-five year old woman!

    I've not exactly been shy of complaining about having difficulties with my lancing devices as of late. When I upgraded my old Contour to a newer version, I got a Microlet 2 lancer. At first I was extremely impressed with it, but it got more and more painful to use as time went on. I think the spring action it broke down, and lost the initial power that it had. Perhaps I have a faulty unit, because this new one has been excellent so far. It's not painless - I don't think lancing ever will be. However, it has been pretty consistent in getting blood. If this continues, I can keep this as my primary lancing device, and keep the One Touch Comfort in reserve for lancing emergencies.

    One thing you can't say is that you're not provided with enough literature. I was slightly overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork that there was included. If I had been someone else, I might have found that a touch intimidating, I think. However, if you're fazed by the amount of potential reading, there is the option of a 'Quick Reference Guide', which is mostly one sentence style instructions, each illustrated. If you're just wanting to get started before delving any deeper, or just want to test with no other features, then this is really helpful. Yet, I have to feel that if all you wanted to do was just test and turn off again, then this is a huge waste of such an intelligent meter.

    Testing is pretty straightforward. Insert the strip, and follow the instructions on the screen. There's a backlight function, which will inevitably be very useful. I haven't tried testing in the dark yet, so I'm not sure whether the point of strip insertion lights up as well. If it doesn't, I may well find putting strips in when it's dim quite difficult, because I've missed a couple of times in broad daylight. That's more to do with rubbish hand-eye co-ordination than anything else though.

    The meter is notably polite! It explains everything in a nice manner, even if you're doing something wrong. I'm also impressed with the ability to 'mark' your results, not just with pre and post meal markers, but with options such as 'don't feel right', 'stress', and 'activity'. The number of times I've tried to scribble notes like that against my logbooks in the past make that a very attractive feature.

    The instruction manual lets you know that if you get an error code whilst testing, you'll still get the error code on the screen, but you'll also get an explanation of what the code means, rather than having to go look it up. What a fantastic idea! The only ones I can ever remember are that I've put the strip in the wrong way, or that I've not given enough blood, so anything other than those completely stump me. Should you also get a particularly high or low reading, the meter tells you to wash your hands and retest, and then should you get a similar result, it will tell you that you need to follow medical advice. I really like this, as it gives room for error. You can also delete any false readings, which is great for not messing around with your averages.

    It comes pre-set with standard targets for pre and post meal levels. Personally, I found the levels to be on the high side of where I'm comfortable. Not a problem though, as I can change them quite easily. Alarm wise, you can customise your post meal testing alarm. What's really great about this is that you can set the alarm per test, in increments of fifteen minutes. I love that, I really do. The alarm also repeats itself in a kind of 'snooze function' - great for when I'm at work and I frequently don't hear the alarm going off.

    You can see trends on the meter, which is useful for a quick view, but you're far, far better off taking advantage of one of the meter's biggest selling points - Glucofacts Deluxe.

    The press release I was sent describes how the software 'translates up to 2,000 individual blood glucose readings into meaningful trends and patterns, giving users an unprecedented level of access into their own unique diabetic profiles and empowering them to become 'experts' in their diabetes'.

    I'm not suddenly wowed by the figure of 2,000 results being so huge. Actually I'm more curious at what happens with result 2,001 - I'd really like an answer over that. Perhaps someone from Bayer can enlighten me? Yet I would say that even with limited data uploaded onto the software, I can definitely see that having my results translated into graphs and trends automatically is a going to be a huge help. I've been doing this up til now with my logbooks and spreadsheets. Having this done by the meter as standard is a huge time saver, and takes the pain out of it for me!

    The software lets you see standard days, weeks and months. You can customise your 'time periods' in the day, which is great for me, as I'm much more nocturnal, so my morning starts later than the standard settings, and I can change that (although it is rather frustratingly fiddly!) to reflect how I actually live, rather than how the default person does.

    Charts also show you your percentages of time spent within your chosen targets, and on either side of the boundaries. By hovering over results on the logbook, you can also see any notes you made on the individual result, as well as the time and date. I haven't found a way of making more than one note against each result, which would be a great feature - if I don't feel right, and it's also before a meal, the ability to mark both would be great.

    There are also features I haven't explored yet, such as the ability to send results to my team. I think the trends and graphs will also become a lot more useful once I have more results stored.

    So on balance, what's my verdict? I like it an awful lot. For me, I think it is as close to a perfect meter as I can expect from what's on the market today. There are some features that I would like to see expanded on: multiple markers for results, a light on the point of strip insertion, but these are mostly minor gripes that I can see being ironed out for the mark two of this model. The only major downside I could see would be for someone for whom this much information would just be 'overload'. For those easily 'blinded by science', this might be terrifying. For those people, I'd point them towards the earlier Asencia Contour, because it has some customisable features, but not as many as to be off-putting.

    Personally, I think this will revolutionise the way I manage my blood sugars. I like to know what's going on, and this shows me in a way that I can digest. If you're not sure whether this meter would be for you, I'd seriously think about giving it a try, but only if you're planning to use the features, otherwise you might be better off with a simpler meter. I do agree that this has the potential to help people by 'empowering them to become 'experts' in their diabetes'. If it does, then that can only be a good thing. We all need a bit more empowerment sometimes. So all in all, I say well done Bayer. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.


  2. 14 comments:

    1. Caro said...

      Thanks for this review. I've also heard a bit about this from the US and I want to see one in person. There is only one thing I'm curious about, and that's what you say about there not being a light on the end to help see the test strip. My understanding from a couple of US reviews that I've seen was that the Contour does have a light on the end, and I'm now disappointed that this doesn't seem to be the case.

      I've been meaning to get a new meter for over a year now and tried a couple out, but had pretty much decided to stick with Freestyle and get a Lite to replace my Mini. One of my most favoured features on these meters is the test strip port light that truly allows testing in the dark. I find it amazing that no other meters see to have embraced this fabulous feature.

      Still, I want to give it a try and I'm definitely curious to see how the software works, because I've never found a meter software that does even half of what I want it to!

    2. Cara Bauer said...

      I purchased this meter about 8 weeks ago and have been very pleased with it. I have the same issue with the case, everything doesn't fit in there very well, I'm always pushing the bottle of strips back in so it will zip. I should learn how to sew to make a new one.

      I like the fact I can stick it in my USB port and download, no looking for a cord.

    3. Becky said...

      @Caro - I've actually been told that there is a way of lighting up the insert point - it does work as well, I've discovered!

    4. Caro said...

      Yay! I'm excited again.

      Still not delighted at the £25 price tag though. I've never paid for a meter yet, and think they get more than enough money out of my 300 strips per month! Might have to wait and see if I can get a freebie from the hospital.

    5. Becky said...

      @Caro -You could contact them and offer to review it?

    6. Adam said...

      How can I get to review this? I want one of these!

      I have a blog. www.dailydeed.net

      Nice site BTW.

    7. Anonymous said...

      I've had my Contour USB for a month and I'm happy with everything except the yellow test port light. Why not white, like the Freestyle Lite? I agree on the carrying case which needs a redesign. 9/10 to Bayer. Now looking forward to the MK2 with the white test port lite and multi comments capability.

    8. Joseph said...

      what an indept review, thank you for that. I'm currently using carb counting to try reduce my hba1c levels. it's relatively knew to me and this machine looks ideal for me keeping track on my averages.

      one question is though, i have 7, 14, 30 day averages on my one touch machine albeit pretty basic. However, do you think it would be beneficial for me using the Contour? and does the Contour provide you with an indication on what you hba1c levels are?

      would really appreciate your reply.

    9. JJames said...

      I have purchased multiple contour usb meters and all ut one has been defective. Randomly and without notice my meter would start to delete its results. It's done this on many of the usb meters i have bought

    10. Alben said...

      "You can also delete any false readings, which is great for not messing around with your averages." - I have not been able to figure out how to delete extra readings. My wife took a reading with my meter, and now I cannot figure out how to get that reading removed.

    11. You said in your post 'You can also delete any false readings, which is great for not messing around with your averages'. How do you delete readings? I've been fiddling with the meter for hours and I can't see how to do it.

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.
    13. images2icons said...

      If you download a reading you can no longer delete it.
      It is in the manual.

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