Home health computing is the newest wave of healthcare reform

Patients connected to home computers can better manage their health conditions by accessing personal health records.

A key component of healthcare reform revolves around empowering patients to prevent and manage diseases. A home desktop or laptop can be used for home health computing and can play a huge role in improving healthcare if used properly.

Most of us have computers at home. The concept of "home health computing" is not new, but it is changing as more patients with chronic conditions live longer. They must play an active role in managing their conditions. Nearly one out of every two adults (130 million) in the U.S. live with at least one chronic illness. About one-fourth of people with chronic conditions have one or more limitations on their daily activities. Many of these individuals require ongoing home health care provided by visiting nurses. What if we could replace some of that home care with computers? Remote patient monitoring devices are performing functions formerly done by visiting nurses, but there is much more to managing our health than measuring blood pressure or blood glucose readings.

Patients need to be educated and empowered so that they can make better decisions about their health. They are diving into online communities, looking for health information from complete strangers. They are chatting in forums, asking questions and seeking medical advice from people who are not medical professionals. Some of these information-gathering behaviors are potentially dangerous because people may receive misinformation that leads to poor medical decisions and potential harm.

So, how can that home computer become more than a gateway to an ocean of health information online? For one, the home PC is an essential tool that can help all of us track our own health. Some of us can remember exactly when we were diagnosed with our conditions. Others have a difficult time remembering if that study for sleep apnea was in 2009 or 2010.

The personal health record (PHR) is a tool that can help all of us organize information about our health conditions. A PHR can have an up-to-date medication list. It can list all of our previous surgeries and procedures. It can help us remember when we were diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or sciatica. A health history is probably the most important piece of information that a doctor relies on to make the right diagnosis when something goes wrong. Most PC-based PHRs can also be accessed on mobile devices, so we can have access to this information whenever we leave the house.

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Another powerful way that the home PC can help us with our health is by reminding us to do certain things. For example, it may trigger an alarm to remind us to take our medications. The PC can also be programmed to remind us when we have been sitting and typing for too long. It may trigger an alert to remind us to get up, stretch and take a 30-second break by walking around the house. If you are taking a medication that is given once a month, you may want to set multiple reminders as that medication day approaches so that you check, double-check, and triple-check your calendar to make sure that you don't miss that dose.

Finally, we should not forget the social element that drives healthy lifestyles. Many of us are spending countless hours on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to stay connected with our friends and family. How many of those people are keeping you accountable about your healthy behaviors? When is the last time someone asked about your eating habits? How about your exercise routine? Maybe if your closest friends on Facebook asked about your gym attendance each week, you would be less inclined to get on Facebook due to embarrassment. Alternatively, you might get motivated to go to the gym so that you can tell your friends that you made it there three times that week. Social accountability plays a tremendous role in sustaining behavior changes, and that is why self-tracking activity trackers and the quantified self movement depend on this so heavily.

So, how do you use your computer at home? Are you leveraging the power of home health computing to live a healthier lifestyle and be more empowered about your health management?

About the author:
Joseph Kim is a physician technologist who has a passion to leverage health IT to improve public health. Dr. Kim is the founder of NonClinicalJobs.com, as well as an active social media specialist. Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was first published in September 2013

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