Blood glucose meters

A blood glucose meter is used by patients with diabetes mellitus. The blood glucose meter helps patients to monitor the blood glucose levels in their blood. This is important in limiting the side-effects of diabetes mellitus such as problems with eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels.

In 2015 the Dutch Diabetes Association received a lot of complaints about blood glucose meters. There were doubts about the reliability of the meters due to reported differences between glucose levels. Commissioned by the Dutch Health and Youth Care Inspectorate, in 2016 the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) investigated the quality and reliability of a number of meters.

Study and improvement of quality requirements

At the end of 2016, RIVM’s report entitled Blood glucose meters. Performance of devices on the Dutch Market was published. This study showed that the documentation provided by the manufacturers of blood glucose meters was inadequate. They had also not collected enough information about the experiences of users. In addition, differences were discovered between the results measured by patients and those of the laboratories that checked the patients’ results.

From 2018 a new quality standard is to be introduced to improve the use of blood glucose meters in the Netherlands. This standard is aimed at the right use and the right meter for the right patient. We will be monitoring the use of this quality standard.

Are current blood glucose meters reliable?

In the Netherlands, only those meters that comply with legal requirements may be sold. These meters have the CE mark accompanied by a 4-number code and instructions for use written in Dutch.

The study shows that results are sufficiently reliable if patients carefully follow the instructions for the correct use of the meter. For example, it is important to wash your hands, to store the test strips as instructed and to check that the blood glucose meter displays the correct unit of measure, i.e. mmol/L.

When changing to another blood glucose meter there may be a difference between the results of the old meter and the new meter. For this reason, a doctor or diabetes professional should assist the patient in the process of changing meters.

Diabetes patients should regularly see their doctor or diabetes nurse for check-ups. This ensures that the patients are monitored for any abnormalities. No evidence has been found that daily inaccuracies of meters can lead to big problems in the long term.

Patients who do not trust the results of their meter or who feel unwell are advised to contact their own care provider (doctor and/or diabetes nurse).