Thursday, January 14, 2021

2020's Medical Gift to 2021

As 2021 began, I looked over my cluttered desk and found several medical testing instruments that were not there as 2020 began. And I wonder if they are the start of a trend: more home-based tools to measure personal health, combined with online linkage with doctors' offices to analyze troublesome test readings.

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn't responsible for all of this amassing of medical hardware, but it certainly took me to CVS with my 40%-off coupon to purchase a Pulse Oximeter. An emergency-room physician wrote a powerful article in The New York Times about the importance of being able to monitor your pulse rate and particularly your oxygen level.  A drop of oxygen intake below 90 percent could indicate the start of Covid's insidious choke-hold on respiration. After my most recent heart surgery, I remember how nurses ran into my room when a below-90 reading set off alarm bells. (Heck, a guy wouldn't learn to tinker with his oxygen line just to receive that pampering, would he? Hmmm.)

Ideally, you should be staying at a steady 95-to-98 percent. If you suddenly drop below 90, it would be a good idea to let your doctor know. Early detection could help emerging therapies be effective in combatting the virus. Just stick a finger in this marvelous little instrument and in a few seconds it tells you your pulse rate and oxygen level.

A Pulse Oximeter is just one of my new medical devices crowding my desk. I also have a no-touch thermometer to take my temperature several times a day, one arm and one wrist blood pressure monitor, an At Home A1C Test Kit (which gives you a 3-month average of your blood sugar), and not least an absolutely amazing watch with medical capabilities.

No, it is not one of those smart watches costing upwards of $500. I found it (where else?) on Amazon for just under $50 -- from a company called More Pro. The watch not only gives you date and time and steps/miles walked during your day, but heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, and even an assessment of the quality of sleep you had last night. Most mind-boggling of all, you can sync it with your smart-phone and run an ECG (similar to an EKG) with all those up-and-down squiggly lines, and if something was out of whack, you actually could transmit the whole danged thing to your cardiologist.

I have now had two online visits with doctors -- one my general practitioner, and one an eminent surgeon -- and I have found both appointments quite productive. With home-based medical testing devices to inform online consultations, I believe this could be part of a new way of heading off medical problems before they become severe, a way for patients to become more involved in their own care. So let it not be said that 2020 yielded nothing good.

© Robert Gray Holland 2021

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