Using In-Home Medical Devices Safely

Using In-Home Medical Devices Safely

In Young Frankenstein (1974) Gene Wilder plays a neuroscientist who inherits a castle complete with a typical mad scientist’s laboratory, filled with lots of weird medical devices (and a monster) from his grandfather, Dr. Frankenstein. Those devices led to hilarity. But for the millions of people who use medical devices to monitor blood glucose, blood pressure and respiration, to provide oxygen and insulin, or to get relief from pain, home medical equipment is serious business.

The invention of these self-regulated devices (these days they often send the data to your doctor) can offer you independence and save you money. A pilot project at the Cleveland Clinic found that remote monitoring increased the average number of days between office visits by 71 percent for diabetic patients and by 26 percent for hypertensive patients.  Nationally, remote patient monitoring alone is expected to save around $197 billion over the next 25 years.

But devices come with risks -- if they aren’t manufactured correctly or you don’t use them properly. To protect yourself from equipment snafus (or worse):

  • Always get a prescription for any in–home medical device and learn how to use it with your doctor.
  • Talk to your doc about medical devices you plan to buy on the Internet. No freelance self-prescribing. Many products may not have FDA approval.  
  • Whenever you bring a device home, read labels and patient information (twice is nice), and check out the FDA’s in-depth info on using home devices safely by Googling “FDA Home Use Devices.”

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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