Review – Lifescan OneTouch UltraSmart

Not just smart - UltraSmart
Not just smart - UltraSmart

Some of my friends (and they are few and far between) are sometimes kind enough to say I’m slightly smart. I know a bit about physics (though it’s very limited) and I occasionally read some fancy books that were written over fifty years ago. You may think this all just false modesty and actually I’m wildly clever, but no – it’s not – it’s real modesty.

Anyway, it’s very kind thing of my friends to say such things and I’m very pleased to have reached the dizzy heights of “slightly smart” amongst my peers and loved ones.

So when I first laid my hands upon Lifescan’s OneTouch UltraSmart I was beside myself with anticipation. How good would something have to be if it was not only slightly smart (like me), not only smart, not only very smart but actually ultra smart? My mind boggled.

Could it do difficult things like hard sums, change your energy supplier or work out what you’ve done to upset your wife this time? I knew that since Banting’s discovery and isolation of insulin eighty years ago the field of diabetes research has come on in bounds and leaps; but could such a small meter promise so much?

No, not really. The OneTouch Ultra Smart is pretty much the same as any other blood glucose meter, except it offers a few more bits and pieces. Chief amongst these is the claim that it is proven to reduce your A1C (essentially your average blood glucose over three months). Having read too much of Ben Goldacre’s wonderfully insightful and somewhat cynical blog over at which includes hideous facts about dodgy scientific trials I immediately thought “cobblers”.

But I was slightly surprised and slightly delighted to see in the fine print down at the bottom of their website the details of just how they had performed their tests to come to this supposition. Lovely! Anyway, having read all the guff I came to the conclusion that it didn’t make a wild difference either way, with perhaps a gnat’s whisker in favour of the UltraSmart.

So anyway, how is it to use?

Not bad really, the test strips are Lifescan’s standard strips which are used over most of their range. So in summary they’re blue, they need to be coded with each new tub, they suck up your lifeblood very quickly and they process the results in five seconds. So far so wonderful.

The screen is easy to read and it comes with most of the usual meter features. So the main benefit of the UltraSmart over other meters has to be the plethora of graphs and statistics it can churn out for you at the press of a button. Most of time I didn’t use these graphs, but on occasions when my blood glucose went all out of goose they were very
handy in trying to track down what the problem might be. All this without have to hook it into the computer and use the obligatory management software that comes with most new meters.

On the flip side the massive brain that it needs to create the graphs does mean this is a slightly bigger and bulkier meter than most. But given you’re a diabetic and you lug a tonne of stuff everywhere you go this is hardly the end of the world. Even smart old Einstein could work that out.

Sample size – 3/5
1.0μL – small, but not small enough

Test time – 3/5
5 seconds; meh, okay

Test strip calibration – 1/5
Bah, they need to be calibrated

Test strip slurpiness – 4/5
Pretty good

Memory – 5/5
Above average 90 days of readings

Sexiness – 3/5
It looks a bit clunky compared to other meters, but on-screen graphs look cool

Beeping – 5/5
Can be turned off

4am test – 3/5
Fairly useful backlight is helpful

Grand total – 27/40

About our reviews

I'm sorry

SorryI’m lucky in that I get to talk to quite a few pancreatically challenged people, both in the real world and online. I like to hear their views. There are a few things I seem to disagree with a few people on though and I’m sorry, but they’re things I’m not willing to apologise for.

  • I can’t get excited about a cure. Many people believe I should have my insulin withheld for a week to torture me for this abhorrent view. I’ve had diabetes since I was 4. If I’d have spent all that time wishing and waiting for a cure I’d have had a pretty dull life. It’s a great marketing ploy – it’s so much easier to raise funds for research into a cure rather than research into a project to examine the best ways of helping teenagers live with their diabetes. But ultimately, it’s not something I waste much time thinking about.
  • I will not feel guilty about costing the NHS money. I pay my taxes, I did nothing to bring this on myself. I don’t look at people with asthma, eplilespy, multiple sclerosis or cystic fibrosis and think “they’re not worth the money it costs to keep them alive” so why should I think it about myself.
  • I will not apologise for having an“expensive” pump and CGMS. The amount of times I get told – by a mixture of healthcare professionals and the pancreatically challenged  “pumps are very expensive”, “they’re not suitable for everyone”, “you’re very lucky to have one” is to be frank, a little tiring. Let me take those one by one.
  • “Pumps are very expensive” – compared to what? Compared to a packet of biscuits they cost a fortune. In comparison to kidney dialysis they’re an absolute bargain. Compared to the cost of providing a blind amputee with the support they need to live, they’re a drop in the ocean.
  • “They’re not suitable for everyone” – I agree. At which point did I suggest that the world and his wife needed a pump? I did the research and decided it was the right route for me, that’s not the same as forcing the entire country onto insulin pumps. Research by John Pickup* says about 20-25% of people on insulin would benefit from a pump, so no one is suggesting they’re for everyone. I am keen though that everyone who’s done the research, assessed the options and decided that a pump would be good for them is given the chance to use one.
  • “You’re very lucky to have one” – yes, I am. And if I’d made no effort to educate myself about how to use it, or I’d got it and left it on a shelf gathering dust I should whip myself daily with a paralysed porcupine as a punishment for wasting valuable resources. As it is, I’m using it to give me good diabetes control and great quality of life. What more do you want?

So, there’s my list of things I’m really not willing to apologise for. Sorry

* Pickup JC. Are insulin pumps underutilised in type 1 diabetes? Yes. Diabetes Care 2006; 29: 1449-52

Medtronic seeks diabetics for worldwide fame

Our chums at everyone’s second favourite diabetes peripheral manufacturer – Medtronic – are inviting Veo insulin pump users to cast for their soon-to-air testimonials campaign. They say:

This campaign will be aired online on our website and print materials across Europe and Canada.

We’d love to have you participate and are specifically looking for patients with type 1 diabetes and Veo insulin pump users who can share personal experiences around one of the following topics:

  •     Pregnancy or family planning and type 1 diabetes
  •     Parent of a child with type 1 diabetes
  •     Hypoglycemia – Low blood sugar level incident
  •     Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis
  •     Concern about long-term complications

If you want to get involved, then apply via their website here:

Any questions?

Brilliant as Tim and I are (and you’ll note, modesty is a particular strength), we don’t always find it easy to think of something entertaining and diabetes related to blog about. Writers block sometimes hits, and like a stubborn high caused by a pesky cold, it takes a while to get rid of.

So, instead of turning to insulin, we thought we’d turn to the glucose-addled brains of our readers for some help and inspiration. We have two questions for you:

Firstly, is there anything you want us to blog about?
Secondly, if you were to interview the two of us, what would you like to ask us?

As ShootUp is a benign dictatorship rather than a democracy, we will of course carefully select which questions we choose to answer in the form of a witty and entertaining blog post. But don’t let that hold you back, leave us your questions in the comments section below.

Comatose and rotting toes – the lighter side of insulin dependency

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