Inexpensive & convenient

Self-monitoring health-care devices are convenient to use and, in the long run, are easy on your wallet too. Here’s a price and availability guide.

By Namrata Dadwal        Print Edition: March 6, 2008

Madhu Srivastava

Was diagnosed with diabetes five years ago. For the past two years, she has been using a glucometer to check her blood sugar level “The greatest advantage for me is convenience. My glucometer saves time and trips to a diagnostic lab”
If you’re a diabetic like 58-year-old Madhu Srivastava, with your day filled with work, home and family, you simply don’t have the time to schedule a daily trip to the clinic to test your blood sugar level. There are others with chronic hypertension who need to check their blood pressure regularly.

Or asthmatics who need to measure the oxygen levels in their blood at frequent intervals. But since most people have their hands full juggling work and home and social lives, regular visits to clinics simply do not happen. There’s also the steady stream of money that goes out to these clinics and testing centres, which could wear out your medical budget sooner than you think.

That’s why over-the-counter monitoring devices are getting so popular. Glucometers, which measure blood sugar, blood pressure (BP) monitors, pulse oximeters and peak flowmeters that measure the body’s oxygen levels, are all easily available and don’t necessarily cost an arm and a leg. Says homemaker Indira Abhilashi, who has diabetes: “There are times when I feel my blood sugar level is low, but when I test it, it actually turns out to be high. For me, the glucometer is as important as my medicines.”

Even better, as the table below shows, it makes financial sense to opt for a self-monitoring device. You can actually recover the cost of the equipment in a year (sometimes even less) simply by calculating the amount you save on visits to the clinic. (When calculating costs, remember that some equipment, like glucometers, might need test strips which are used for blood testing. These will cost you extra.)

These home use devices are easily available at your neighbourhood chemist. There are cheap, unbranded gadgets available, but it’s generally safer to go in for a recognised brand although it might cost more. The price range, even among branded options, is wide. For instance, you can pick up an MAM BP monitor for a little under Rs 5,000, or a Citizen portable unit for just one-fifth the price.

Healthy savings
Cost of the kit
Monthly cost of using kit Cost of each lab visit (Rs) Monthly cost of lab test (Rs) Time to recover kit cost 
7 mths
Blood pressure#
 8013 mths
* If testing is done twice a week (test strip costs Rs 20). # If testing is done once a week
Similar variants are available in glucometers and pulse oximeters as well. Your choice, obviously, will depend on the features you need, for which your best bet is to consult your doctor before you buy. Also, though these devices are easy to use and generally come with detailed instructions, it’s safer to get your doctor or medical technician to demonstrate how to use it before you invest.

But how far can you rely on the readings on a do-ityourself kit? Experts say these instruments are 95% accurate. “In case I have a doubt about the reading, I do it three times.

It can’t be wrong all three times,” says Delhibased Leela Pathania, who suffers from a heart ailment and regularly monitors her blood pressure levels. Adds Dr Sanjeev Chibber, senior surgical oncologist and consultant at various hospitals: “These devices may, at times, have a slight margin of error, but usually they give you a very good idea about your health.” All of which definitely makes monetary and health sense.

But do not depend on the readings from these do-it-yourself devices to take the place of medical opinion. Remember that these are all selfmonitoring devices, not self-diagnosing ones.

So, make sure you continue to schedule those visits to the doctor to ensure that everything is going smoothly. Keeping a regular record of your testing at home also makes it easier for your doctor to chart your health and know what is working best for you or what is proving detrimental. Also remember that it’s important to keep the device in good working condition.

Ensure that you get any self-test kit checked by your doctor at regular intervals to ensure that it is working as accurately as is possible. “Most people become careless with their instruments.
Click here to view some more self-monitoring health care devices

They need to get them calibrated regularly or the readings from the devices will go haywire,” says Dr Juhee Chandra, a consultant pathologist with Apollo Hospital. Look after them carefully and these health-care gadgets will go a long way in making your life easy and keeping you healthy.

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