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Abbott FreeStyle Libre 3

Even though Abbott started to sell their updated Continuous Glucose Monitor (=CGM) FreeStyle Libre 3 in August 2021 already, I only recently got my hands on it.


I was excited to learn more about the enhancements coming with the new model after I had tested their previous model -the FreeStyle Libre 2- a couple of times in the past.


Now, after wearing the new CGM for fourteen days, I will briefly talk about my experiences and what I noticed to be a difference compared to the FreeStyle Libre 2. If you have not already, you might want to start reading my article about the Libre 2 here: Wearing a CGM.


The Applicator


The Libre 3 applicator arrives ready to use at your doorstep. There is no longer the need to connect two pieces before being able to use it. For some reason, I felt this is a significant enhancement to the old model. Partly because it produces less waste but also because it is less cumbersome to prepare the applicator (even though the application with the Libre 2 wasn't too bothersome in the first place either).


All you have to do is open the applicator, find a good spot on your arm and press. There is no pain to be expected if you do it correctly.


However, also with the new applicator, I hesitated to press. It might only be something within me that is hesitant to prick, inject or apply anything in or to my body that does not belong there naturally. On the other hand, the applicator has no soft click or button with a semi-automatic click system: You need to press the whole thing that has the size of a shot glass with some gentle force against your arm.


Well, eventually, I applied the new sensor after taking a deep breath. And no surprise - it was painless. Still, a soft click system is maybe an enhancement worth considering for Abbott for the upcoming generation 😅.

The Sensor


After applying the sensor, here comes a positive surprise: The sensor is much smaller than the old one!

Abbotts release note claims it is "just as big and thick as two 5 cent coins stacked on top of each other". I didn't go that far and fact-checked it, but I think their measurement is accurate. It is small.


Encouraged by its size, I did not use additional tape to secure the sensor and relied on the glue of the sensor. The sensor stayed with me to my delight even though I did all I could to challenge it, including swimming and visiting the sauna. Kudos to you, Libre 3!

The New App


To use the new sensor, you will need to install and use the new app Abbott released (App Store - Google Play). Sadly, you can no longer use their dedicated reader to get your glucose levels. And that means you have to use a compatible phone. Here is a small warning for those having a rooted phone: It seems like you cannot use the app even though your phone might be compatible.


But for those with the appropriate phone at hand: The app looks and behaves basically identical to their former app. So there is no need to learn something new, which is a good thing per se.


However, I said basically because there is a significant difference: You only need to scan the sensor once.

And this one scan is only needed to activate it.

After that scan and a 60-minute waiting time to let the sensor adjust itself, you get every minute real-time information about your glucose levels in the app. No additional scanning! And that's the new big plus for the sensor. The time to hold your phone close to the sensor to retrieve data is finally over.



The other big plus for me is that the sensor got an update to its storage capacities; as Abbott states: It can now hold the data of 14 days, and with this, data gaps are no longer a topic. So if you do not have your phone at hand for some reason or have slept longer than 8 hours, all your data remain safe within the sensor until you connect the next time to your phone (prepare for a waiting time of approx. 60 seconds to let the sensor ping your phone). It will then add the data to your graph, and you can see the development of your blood sugar.


Unfortunately, there is no integration with Apple Health. That means your data is not automatically synced for solid health management. If you ask me, this is a weak point, and Abbott should tackle the integration topic (also with other health management apps).


Furthermore, I missed an overview of actual data points for a later review. While you can jump back in your calendar to review your graphs, you do not get any precise numbers. Those are only saved if you add a note manually. Therefore, I advise you: If you need specific data points, save them manually.


Personally, I'd like to see a hover-over feature to the graph that would allow me to scroll and tap the bar and see the minute-by-minute data, similar to what Apple does for VO2max, heart rate and other measurements in their Health App. Even to the cost that the sensor can't hold the data for 14 days ... but maybe one or two (because: is it realistic that someone with a CGM does not check in to their glucose levels at least once a day?).



Summary


For me, the new FreeStyle Libre 3 is better than the old FreeStyle Libre 2 while there is still some room for improvements.


In my opinion, everyone who needs to measure blood glucose levels should use a CGM. I do not understand why some still opt in for finger pricking. I wouldn't do that 👀

Firstly because I do not like the pain and secondly, I feel that viewing only some data points without seeing graphs and the full 24/7 development of the blood glucose levels can cause more harm than good in some cases.


To sum it all up, here is a quick Pro and Con list of the most important topics for the FreeStyle Libre 3:

PRO

CONTRA

  • Small sized sensor

  • No Apple Health integration

  • No manual scanning needed

  • No data points saved as actual numbers

  • Data storage increased

  • No soft-click applicator

  • Less plastic waste / ready to use applicator

  • Compatible phone required


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