In-home gadgets to keep you out of doc’s office
by Connie Midey – Sept. 15, 2011 11:08 AM
The Arizona Republic

Health devices for home use – most of them goof-proof, affordable and available without a prescription – can help you stay in tip-top shape between medical appointments.

“There’s no substitute for visits with your health-care provider,” says Denise Link, a women’s-health nurse practitioner and clinical associate professor at the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

“These devices are additional aids. People who self-monitor have better outcomes because they’re more involved in their care day-to-day.”

Choices range from heart-rate monitors, some worn like a wristwatch while exercising, to automated external defibrillators that restore the heart’s rhythm to such pedometer-like gadgets as NewYu that measure your movements and calories burned.

Here are some of Link’s top picks for in-home devices.

Medical-alert system
“Senior citizens or any people living alone without someone looking in on them need one of these systems in case of a fall or injury,” the nurse practitioner says. “These alert others – when you can’t – that you need help.”
Example: Push the “help” button on a Philips Lifeline Medical Alert Service device worn around your neck and a Lifeline employee will answer and assess your needs, connecting you with emergency services or a relative or friend.

Electronic personal-health records
“Internet companies offer systems for storing your personal health-care information,” Link says. “These are data banks that you have control over, and they help you communicate with your health-care providers. If you’re at the hospital, they can access your information in an emergency. You can choose to give your password to a trusted person in the event you can’t communicate.”

Example: Microsoft HealthVault is a free online site where you can organize, store and, perhaps, share your and your family’s health information with doctors or others.
Medicine organizers
“Get a lock box for controlled substances,” Link says. “A lot of teens will tell you they get their drugs to take to parties from their home medicine cabinet.
“And if you’re taking multiple medicines, a pill-organizer box will help you remember what you have to take, the timing and whether you’ve already taken it.”
Examples: These include simple plastic versions labeled by day and available in most drugstores; vibrating or talking alarm watches; talking pill bottles for people who can’t read or understand medicine labels; a magnetic pill timer to stick on the refrigerator door; and the MedCenter System, a 31-day pill organizer with up to four reminder alarms per day. and
Baby monitor
“Some are better than others,” Link says, “so check consumers’ reviews. Consider what’s appropriate for your needs, whether you live in a small apartment and are always just a short distance from your baby, live in a larger home or might put your baby down for a nap while you do yard work. If you get a model with wires, you want to be careful about where it’s kept because there have been cases of kids being injured or strangled.”
Example: Sony BabyCall nursery monitor has 27 channels to limit interference and two receivers with five sound-sensor activity lights. Its 900 MHz technology allows you to take the receivers a distance away and still hear activities in the nursery.

Other useful home devices
Blood-pressure monitor. Patients who use a home monitor are more likely to reach target blood-pressure numbers than those who rely only on checks at their doctor’s office, research has found.

Example: Battery-operated Omron blood-pressure monitors measure systolic and diastolic levels and pulse rate, and store your last 60 readings.

Digital bathroom scale. In conjunction with a blood-pressure monitor, “an accurate bathroom scale helps people manage congestive heart failure,” Link says. Changes in blood pressure or weight signal that a prompt visit to the doctor is needed.

Example: The EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale, which measures up to 400 pounds, has an easy-to-read 3.5-inch LCD display and sturdy tempered-glass top.
Digital thermometer. With one of these on hand, you’ll have a number to relay by phone to your health-care provider. Laypeople don’t always know what constitutes a normal temperature in various situations, Link says, so it can be unwise to self-medicate without directions from your doctor or nurse.

Example: Exergen TemporalScanner uses infrared technology to measure body temperature non-invasively with a gentle stroke across the forehead, over the temporal artery.

For emotional health

My Wake Up Call Motivational Alarm Clock, although not in the must-have category of health gadgets, will get your day off to a positive start. Instead of a jarring alarm, you’ll hear five-minute messages of your choice about such issues as self-esteem, making a difference, grief and resilience, weight loss and working out.

Read more: