A block of houses with heartbeat monitor lines running through them.

How to Monitor Your Health with At-Home Devices

At-home monitoring can help you better manage chronic health conditions. It can also aid in your recovery after medical procedures. Using this technology, you can regularly record your health data at home. Nurses and doctors then monitor these data to identify problems and intervene earlier. This results in lower costs to you and our healthcare system.

The devices you should use depend on what information you and your doctor need to track. Talk to your doctor to discuss what is right for you. You should also ask your insurance provider if the devices are covered.

Types of at-home monitoring devices

Many vital signs can be monitored at home and remotely examined by your doctor. Some of these are also called wearable devices. Here are a few of the most common remote devices:

  • Blood pressure cuffs
  • Digital weight scales
  • Glucose monitors (measures blood sugar levels)
  • Pulse oximeters (measures blood oxygen levels)
  • ECG monitors
  • Pacemakers
  • Thermometers
  • Digital stethoscopes and otoscopes
  • Pedometers (to record steps or walking)
  • Peak flow meters (to measure breathing)
  • Mobility sensors to predict or detect falls
  • Tracking devices to locate wandering elders
  • Medicine reminder alerts

Some technologies integrate a few of these devices into one system. They may also include written or verbal questions that monitor mental and physical health. They may provide educational information directly to the person. Some devices support virtual contact with a doctor for real-time treatment.1,2

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The right device depends on the individual. Some people only need a simple, portable technology such as an app that reminds them to take medicine at a certain time. Other people may need a comprehensive home-based system to monitor their heart, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and blood sugar.3

Benefits of at-home health monitoring

Using these devices, doctors monitor your health data remotely using a phone or internet connection. This improves access to care, especially in rural communities. Doctors also have access to more data to make more informed decisions about your care. They can see what behaviors cause problems and identify practical solutions.2

They can also intervene earlier when problems arise. For example, they can provide medical advice or modify treatments more quickly than if you had to wait for an office visit. Early intervention improves care and reduces costly hospital visits. This is particularly useful for chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or COPD. It also reduces hospital readmissions after medical procedures.2,4

Monitoring health at home also empowers you to take a more active role in managing your health. It can help you understand practical ways to stay healthy. For example, you may see how certain foods or activities increase your blood pressure. Users of at-home monitoring devices also report better relationships with their doctors.2

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) showed these benefits for people enrolled in their VHA Care Coordination/Home Telehealth (CCHT) program. They used several technologies to provide care for people with diverse chronic diseases. Users showed 25 percent fewer hospital bed days and 20 percent fewer hospital admissions compared to before enrollment.1,4

Limitations of using at-home health monitors

Some obstacles limit our ability to use remote health monitoring, including:

  • Lack of cellular coverage or internet access for some patients
  • Patients and doctors comfort with technology
  • Cost of the devices and whether insurance will pay for newer technology
  • Doctors’ concerns about liability
  • Protection of private health information
  • Accidental breakage of the device

However, many people agree that the health benefits outweigh the risks. Continuing to lift insurance and legal restrictions will also improve access to telehealth services and devices.2

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