People want expert websites, not just the facts

Many Americans who troll the internet in search of health-related information are bored or simply frustrated with “just the facts”: They want the Web to help manage their health and that of their loved ones. A new generation of “care sites” addresses those demands. These Websites offer sophisticated monitoring devices, tailored treatment plans, personalized webpages that store individuals’ health-care data, and regular interaction with health-care professionals who monitor and/or manage their health.

Internet-based devices that measure and monitor user health and vitals plug into these websites. The devices range in complexity from simple blood pressure cuffs to implantable pacemakers.¬†Web-based health devices can supplement–and, in some cases, replace–traditional monitoring equipment or routine medical exams. The benefits are multi-fold: Web health care is convenient; it encourages real-time patient feedback; it provides online tracking information to enhance treatment plans; and it facilitates cost-effective patient monitoring.

Those who stand to benefit greatly are the more than 100 million Americans with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. The majority of Baby Boomers will experience one or more chronic illnesses during their lifetime. And chronic illnesses are costly, comprising nearly 70 percent of personal health-care expenditures in this country. The good news is that the Internet can be used to decrease the burden of chronic illnesses. Here is a sample of Web-enabled devices that will help manage users’ health.

AirWatch Asthma Monitor

Maker: LifeChart.com www.lifechart.com
Partners: Nokia, Johnson & Johnson, MedicaLogic/Medscape
Price: Monitor costs less than $100; service costs $9.95/month.
Availability: Since December 2009
Target users: Moderate and severe asthmatics
Description: Users breathe into the AirWatch Asthma Monitor, which records data for two key asthma parameters. The monitor automatically uploads the data via modem to LifeChart.com, which graphs the data to highlight asthma triggers and trends for that patient. Both patient and their authorized health-care professional can access the data on a secure Website.
Pros: The AirWatch monitor is easy to use and provides regular feedback to enhance compliance with treatment. It is clinically proven to reduce emergency room visits by 97 percent and will soon integrate data into MedicaLogic’s online medical record.
Cons: The AirWatch device is more costly than standard asthma monitors; and patients remain dependent upon their own health-care professional for monitoring.
Prognosis: AirWatch successfully captures, displays, and accesses pertinent health-care data. The AirWatch system will now be applied to other conditions, including diabetes and hypertension.