Culture

Why the One Drop Glucometer is the One to Buy

When I started the “13 Weeks” columns years ago, I wanted to lose weight, be more attractive, deal with blood sugar, and I was aware that I was getting to that certain age where outliving my parents wasn’t that far in the future. And it was a partial success at least, in that I did lose 30-odd pounds and kept off 20-plus pounds of it years later. I sort of gave up on being more attractive.

When I started my current effort to deal with my blood sugar on January 1, my motivations were simpler and more direct: I wanted to avoid a premature, painful, and unpleasant death.

That meant getting my blood sugar under control. Even with medications, in that first week of January, my blood sugar was ranging between 274 and 450.

These are not good numbers. Not good at all.

So, the measure of interest was going to be blood sugar, and I needed — because I’m a geek — something that would allow me to easily record and analyze the data. I had had a Bayer Contour Next, actually several of them, which should have been fine, as they store the data and have a USB connection, but the app that went with them never actually worked.

About that time, I saw an advertisement for One Drop on Facebook; it sounded good and there was a $10 offer for new orders.

The One Drop Kit

You get two things from One Drop: the One Drop kit, and an app for your phone. I got the iPhone app, but there is an Android app as well. The kit (pictured here) is a small black leather-esque holster and three parts packed in the holster: a container for 50 test strips, a lancet device (that’s the finger-poking thing, did you know it has an official name?), and the One Drop meter itself. The kit will fit in a pocket if you have loose slacks, but combined with a phone, keys, a wallet, and so on its part of the continuing demonstration of why all men are eventually going to carry purses.

The One Drop App

The phone app is what makes One Drop work. The meter records your blood sugar measurement and the time at which it was taken and then transfers the measurements over Bluetooth to the app. If you do your blood sugar when the phone isn’t nearby or the One Drop app isn’t running, the meter stores the data until it can be downloaded. I’m sure there is some limit on how many measurements it can store, but I’ve never hit it.

The app also includes a food diary and a pretty amazingly complete catalog of foods and their calorie and carb content. Seriously complete: if you want to look up an order of Pizza Hut wings, it gives you a choice of sauces. In addition, the app can connect to other fitness applications. For instance, it can record my exercise from my Fitbit Blaze.

The One Drop Experts

Rachel Head, my One Drop Expert

Along with the app and meter, if you sign up for any of the subscription plans, One Drop connects you with a coach. My coach is Rachel Head, who has been a lot of help all through the last six months. Part of the coaching plan is a series of lessons about diabetes that are interesting, but I didn’t see much new, although I’m sure if you’ve only been recently diagnosed it could be very helpful. But you can also communicate with your coach by chat, and there, having Rachel to talk to has been very helpful, especially when I see an apparent setback. It really makes a difference to be able to talk to an expert — all the coaches are Certified Diabetes Educators — who can tell you what might be happening, give you hints and advice, and basically pat you on the head or on the back when you need it.

Is One Drop Perfect?

Well, no. There are a couple of things I would change.

Bluetooth Connectivity This is the only real technical issue I have with the product. The One Drop Chrome meter connects and downloads over Bluetooth, but the connection can be, well, kind of delicate. If you have some measurements in the meter that aren’t transmitted instantly, it can take some hacking about to get them uploaded — turn your Bluetooth on and off, kill the One Drop app and restart it — until they are uploaded. Very occasionally, one will appear to upload, but never show up in the app, making you enter the measurement manually.

Data Visualization The records are displayed in a generally nice format, and totals and averages are kept for the day, the week, the preceding 30 days, and by calendar month. You can look at them all easily and it really does help gauge your progress. But the format of the display is as a timeline, in which the area of the little circle is proportional to the measurement. Looks real cool, very colorful, damn near useless quantitatively.

It’s certainly not completely useless since you can also look at your averages, and you can download comma-separated-values files suitable for spreadsheets with all the data. But there are two other views that would be informative and probably easy to add:

  • A view that shows a day’s values as a graph
  • A toggle so that you can see the actual numerical value as well as the pretty circle.

In the Future

Just as I was writing this review, One Drop announced an upcoming feature, a predictive blood glucose model for (at least at first) Type 2 diabetics who aren’t using insulin, like me. This model is the result of One Drop doing Big Data analysis of the blood sugar measurements they’re collecting through the meter and application.

I have to say that I’m not sure I see what the advantage is. But I can think of some things it might help.

  • Diabetics, and Type 2, in particular, see something called “dawn effect” in which glucose counterintuitively goes up overnight. For me at least, the peak of this dawn effect seems to be moving later in the day — it’s happening around 10:30 AM now. It would be very interesting to see how that matches with a bigger population.
  • Can it make any correlations with other effects over time? If you have lots of carbs or high glycemic index carbs, does it have a long-term effect as well as the more or less immediate effect?
  • Are there longer-term periodic changes? Is glucose higher on weekends or mid-week? Summer or winter? New Moon or Full Moon?

Should I buy one?

Honestly, the combination of the device itself and the coaching seems to have been effective for me. Right now, I’m on the all-you-can-eat plan, ($39.95 a month) which lets me get as many strips as I want as well as access to my coach, and I take my blood sugar roughly every 2 hours from 8:30 AM to 10:30 PM, as well as on awakening and just before bed.

This may well be overkill, although it’s also known that more frequent testing leads to better blood sugar control — but hell, I’m also writing about it, I have an excuse.

In any case, the combination of the One Drop, Rachel’s coaching, and the low-carb ketogenic diet have gotten me pretty close to normal blood sugar, and there’s every indication I’m still gaining on it. If you’re Type 2 and managing your blood sugar, I think it’s the one to buy.