Do At-Home Blood Sugar Tests Benefit Patients?

In an era where nearly everything from groceries and prescriptions to eyeglasses and shoes can be delivered right to your door, at-home medical testing has gained a foothold.   Without ever visiting a doctor or lab, home medical tests can screen for many conditions but how reliable are the results and does home-based testing for chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes really save money and protect health? 

According to a recent New York Times report, a new large scale trial found that regular at-home blood sugar testing for type 2 diabetes offered no benefit to patients’ health-related quality of life and yet testing strips cost an average of $325 a year for patients using 2 strips per day.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes; the large majority with type 2 diabetes.  And with a rapidly growing older population, the burden on the health system of this serious disease doesn’t show signs of improving. 

The year-long Monitor trial, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, found that there was no measurable difference in patient health whether they checked their blood sugar regularly or not among participants with type 2 non-insulin-treated diabetes.  The question remains whether better training or more attention to detail would elicit better patient results.

When in doubt about medical procedures or screenings, be sure to talk with your doctor.  We at The Oldish have also found the Choosing Wisely campaign, now a smartphone and tablet app is extremely helping in wading through what medical tests and procedure are useful and which are unnecessary.  Choosing Wisely advises against routine home glucose monitoring for patients with type 2 diabetes who are not on insulin.  Not only is home testing not likely to offer any health benefits, but it can also increase stress and anxiety surrounding the disease, which may cause harm to health and well-being. 

Choosing Wisely also suggests that allergy tests without a doctor’s exam are usually unreliable.  The tests can lead to false positives and results may suggest lifestyle changes such as eliminating dairy or wheat unnecessarily.  

As for shoes and groceries; I say go for it.   Buy the shoes, eat the cake (in moderation) for you only live once!