Technology has revolutionized how Americans manage chronic diseases, empowering us to monitor important health indicators in the comfort of our own homes. From monitoring blood pressure and blood oxygen levels to the electronic transmission of health information, technology is helping us take better charge of our own health.
Living with a chronic disease once meant monthly, or even weekly, trips to a doctor’s office or hospital, since only medical professionals had the equipment necessary to monitor certain vital signs. Now new home diagnostic devices are becoming available each year to monitor some of the most common chronic diseases Americans face.
High blood pressure
One of the most common chronic ailments, high blood pressure affects nearly a third of all Americans older than 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Untreated high blood pressure puts you at increased risk of stroke, heart attack, heart disease, heart failure and kidney disease. Called “the silent killer” because it causes few symptoms, hypertension once required regular visits to a doctor’s office for monitoring and treatment.
Now, easy-to-use home monitors allow people with hypertension to check their blood pressure every day.
A leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, amputations, heart disease and stroke, diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans, about 25 percent of whom don’t even know they have it, according to the CDC. Diabetes can be controlled with medication and diet — but sufferers must continuously monitor their blood sugar levels.
Before the advent of home diabetes monitors, people living with the disease could only monitor it through blood tests administered in their doctor’s office. Now, a simple finger prick once a day using a home monitor allows diabetes sufferers to keep track of their blood sugar levels in the comfort of their own homes.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). With 12 million people currently diagnosed, and 12 million people suffering unaware, COPD is known as the “silent killer” due to the gradual onset of symptoms that allow it to go undetected until serious complications arise.
Because COPD blocks the airways, sufferers need to regularly monitor their blood oxygen levels. If you’ve ever been in the hospital, you probably had your oxygen and heart rate levels monitored with a device that clips on your finger called a pulse oximeter. Now, a home version of that same device allows COPD patients, and people suffering from other chronic respiratory diseases, to easily self-monitor their blood oxygen and heart rate levels at home.
Medical device manufacturer Nonin Medical has even introduced a fingertip pulse oximeter that uses Bluetooth wireless technology to relay the measurements you have taken at home to your doctor’s office. For a full line of fingertip oximeters, including the new GO2 personal fingertip pulse oximeter, visit www.nonin.com to learn more or to find a distributor near you.
Telemedicine encompasses the secure electronic exchange of medical information through video-conferencing, transmission of still images such as X-rays or MRI scans, remote monitoring of vital signs, and Web sites designed to assist patients in managing their health.
Where once patients might have waited days, or even weeks, to learn test results, telemedicine is helping to streamline this and many other medical processes. This electronic exchange of information benefits patients greatly by reducing travel time, and expense, to and from medical facilities, lessening wait time for test results, and providing patients with access to healthcare providers they might not otherwise be able to see. — ARA