Information Sharing Made Easier

As more Americans go online in virtually every area of their daily lives, home health care patients are now tapping into the Internet for greater quality in how they manage and share their information with their health care professionals.

Especially for the growing number of people with diabetes-for whom blood glucose monitoring is a necessary daily routine-online data management can enhance the quality of their care through speed, convenience and immediate, 24/7 access by their health care professional.


Online data management also eliminates the compatibility issue-purchasing a system that may not be compatible with the patient's blood glucose monitor, home computer or doctor's computer.

For a nation that is increasingly wired or wireless, the ability for patients to manage and share vital information on their disease from their home computers is a natural trend.

According to a recent, year-long study of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "the status of the Internet is shifting from being the dazzling new thing to being a purposeful tool that Americans use to help them with some of life's important tasks." Conducted between March 2000 and March 2002, the study found that "over the course of a year, people's use of the Internet gets more serious and functional...and there is a striking year-to-year growth in the number of Americans performing various activities online."

More Americans were online in March 2001 (57 percent) compared with March 2000 (46 percent), according to the study. "More people used the Web to get health care information, news, financial information and product information," according to the report. "The largest increments of growth in those types of activities came among Internet veterans."

Emerging blood glucose monitoring technologies that offer Internet uploading capability can help diabetes patients enhance the quality of their data tracking and how they share that information with their health care professionals.

Online Monitoring Benefits

Many people with diabetes choose data management systems to reduce the work of gathering and reviewing their daily information, but how they do so is now changing. Secure Web-based programs can provide a powerful way to help patients meet their personal health care goals, keep track of health care information, test results, medications and more.

The migration from software-based monitoring programs to the Web will be gradual, as many blood glucose monitors with data management systems still require patients to purchase, learn and maintain proprietary software and cables to perform similar functions.

Most meter manufacturers sell the software as an add-on to the meter with PC downloading capabilities. People with diabetes may also purchase software by non-meter firms, which now vary in price and availability.

Web-based monitoring offers the conveniences of online access. It can eliminate the need for diabetes patients to take their blood glucose monitoring system to their doctors. Online data management also eliminates the compatibility issue-purchasing a system that may not be compatible with the patient's blood glucose monitor, home computer or doctor's computer.

Web-based data management can also help diabetes patients become part of the growing online communities that share information through the comfort of their home PCs. Online blood glucose monitoring can also help lower costs for health care practices, freeing them from having to learn and maintain a suite of software for each type of monitor.

"There's no way the patient's doctor or practice is going to have 15 different uploading programs in their office," said Darrell Atkin, vice president, marketing, iMetrikus Inc., Carlsbad, Calif., whose company developed Internet uploading capability for Home Diagnostics Inc.'s (HDI), Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Prestige IQ' blood glucose monitor. "We support all of their patients with multiple meters, regardless of the make or model. Other systems are proprietary. They all have their uploading capabilities, but it's only into their programs," he said.

With security and privacy major online issues, iMetrikus designed the system in compliance with Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. Designed at the core of the system, Secure Anonymous Information Architecture (SAIA) protects the privacy and anonymity of every patient who visits the site.

To share patient information, the health care professional enrolls as a practice or clinic. The patient then gives the health care professional written authority to access his or her records.

How it Works

With HDI's Prestige IQ' blood glucose monitor, patients use Internet access and a separate interface cable that plugs into the side of their PC. The patient inserts its 9-pin connector to a 9-pin serial port on the PC, ensuring the connections are tight. The patient then inserts the mini plug on the interface cable to the data port of his blood glucose monitor.

The patient's Internet browser security level must be set to medium in order to upload and run required components. Medium is the default setting for Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and America Online (AOL). The patient's meter needs to show the correct date and time to accurately upload blood glucose test results.

The program uses mg/dL as the default unit for displaying blood glucose test results. The patient can change the setting to mmol/L if he or she prefers, or keep the setting at mg/dL.

The patient logs onto www.prestigesmartsystem.com, and clicks onto the Internet uploading icon to gain access to the registration page. Next, the patient registers by following screen prompts to obtain a protected user name and password. The patient then enters (or uploads) his or her test results to track, graph, print and share his or her data with his or her health care professional. The patient can prepare personalized reports for doctor visits, organize health data, track and monitor daily health-related tasks, reference diabetes-related information, chat with other people with diabetes and print the reports as backup or hard copies.

Graphs

Program graphs can provide a great deal of information about the patient's health progress at a glance. With HDI's Prestige IQ monitor, patients select from a pull-down screen that includes standard graphs, compare graphs, diabetes summary graphs, diabetes pump summary graphs, glucose summary graphs, glucose vs. goals summary graphs, health promotion summary graphs and health management summary graphs. Date ranges include the past seven days, the past 14 days, the past 30 days, the past 90 days, the past 120 days and the past 180 days.

Patients can also compare their records from two, different measures. For example, a patient may want to compare before and after meal glucose goals over a specific date range. With glucose vs. goals summary graphs, the patient can see how often he has been within the goal, above it, or below it. With the glucose and insulin graph, a chart displays the type of insulin the patient has taken as well as his blood glucose test results over a selected time period, and compares them to his goals. Diabetes summary graphs show all of the various graphs on one page for a quick, visual overview.

Reports

Online monitoring programs allow patients to prepare printed reports of their data for health care visits or for their own records. With HDI's program, each report allows the patient to choose a date range, sort or change other settings. Patients may also add details and a legend, and preview any of the reports before printed.

A glucose logbook provides a summary of the patient's test results. Patients also can print a glucose frequency report to show how often their blood glucose reached certain levels and the time slots where those levels were reached.

All entered data and generated reports are saved to the record, leaving an audit trail of when the information was loaded and where it was loaded from, for example.

Maximizing Technology

In the April 21 Newsweek article, How Great Companies Tame Technology, the writer emphasizes how robust companies from many industries are creating a business model that enables them to become the best at what they do in line with their core values. They "use technology to enhance these pre-existing variables, never as a replacement."

Home diagnostics manufacturers are also part of this robust trend, creating online technology that can lower costs while enhancing quality of care; ease of use that can help promote continuity of sales; and the latest technology that can also help HMEs leverage customer confidence in their brands.

This article originally appeared in the September 2002 issue of HME Business.

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