After having reviewed a few blood glucose meters (don’t worry, there are yet more in the pipeline, review fans!) and reading Caroline Parker’s recent posts about the truly horrific, medieval machines she used to use, I started designing the perfect blood glucose meter in my head while waiting in the queue for my lunchtime sandwich.
At first, naturally enough, I gave it all sorts of useful but perhaps unwieldy (or even unworldly) attributes – such as the ability to wake me up with a cup of tea; paint the fence (which I really, really don’t want to do) or help me change energy supplier.
None of these things are possible even by the best brains in the world, especially the latter. So hoping they could be achieved by a small, portable machine is clearly too much to ask.
So I set my sights lower.
I would really like a blood glucose meter that could check your blood without actually taking any blood from you. I don’t know about you, but my finger-tips are covered in tiny dark pinpricks of a zillion-and-one blood tests over the past years.
Finger-pricking doesn’t really hurt that much (unless you’re completely feeble) but if shoving a sharpened stick of stainless steel into your oh-so-vulnerable flesh could be avoided I would be the first in line.
Even half-human half-cyborg diabetics with their continuous blood glucose monitors still have to finger-prick and they also have to jab sensors into themselves like a junior initiate of The Borg from TV’s Star Trek. It’s the first stage of assimilation I tells ya.
However, understandably enough, I think blood is going to remain a major element of blood testing for the time-being.
So I set my sights much, much lower.
First off, I would love a meter that actually lit up the test strip. The fancy, cool-green backlights standard on most meters look great but they’re as much use as Anne Frank’s drumkit when dealing with the wild, unadulterated joy of 4am hypos.
A tiny LED positioned so that it shone down the test strip would be bloody marvellous. Lifescan, Wavesense and all – invent this, get down to the Patent Office and let’s see it in the next generation of meters.
New meters with graphs and the capacity to memorise your last seven million tests are all pretty handy, but the Holy Grail for me would be a universal test strip.
Like lots of gadget-obsessed diabetics I have a dozen meters, all of which use different test strips from as many different companies. Luckily for me (but maybe not the British tax-payer) most are available for free on the NHS.
But I always end up running out of strips for my cool spanky-new meter and have to resort to the drudgery and early-naughties technology of my backup meter. Nightmare, I know.
If we had a universal strip that worked in every meter that would be brilliant – no more worries about running out, no more worries about packing the wrong meter. Simple.
But you know and I know that this will never, ever, ever happen.
Like crack-dealers on a run-down Liverpool estate, pharmaceutical companies (altogether now “booooooo!”) give you your first fix free (does anyone actually pay for a meter nowadays?) and then they get you hooked on their brand of strips. While big pharma won’t come round in their blacked-out BMW and break your kneecaps if you stop using their strips (though I wouldn’t put it past them) they all use the same marketing model. So whichever way you turn, you’re stuffed.
As I reached this conclusion, I became depressed – was there nothing that could make the perfect meter?
Then it hit me! Build in a Tamagotchi-style game into the meter with a teeny-tiny on-screen diabetic whom you have to keep alive with regular injections of insulin and fistfuls of carbs. Focussing your attention on the tiny collection of pixels that is your pancreatically-challenged alter-ego would surely distract us from the daily despond of diabetes. Build that big pharma!