House Call: Vetting At-Home Medical Devices

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The increasing availability of at-home medical devices and new technology means that there is always a “next big thing” in the world of health and medicine. Before purchasing a new medical device, however, it is important to understand the safety and efficacy of the products you use for your health.

At-home medical devices range from wheelchairs and contact lenses to ultrasounds and insulin injections. ZetrOz, for example, offers the word’s smallest ultrasound pain therapy device and can be used at home. These days, it’s common to hear about a product from Dr. Oz, a friend on Facebook, an online advertisement, or a famous athlete’s sponsorship in a magazine.

Just because the information doesn’t come from your physician doesn’t mean the at-home health product isn’t credible or can’t be beneficial to your health. However, it’s important to vet a product before you buy. You should make sure the products you use are safe and will, in fact, improve your health — and that you are buying them at the best price possible.

Here are five tips for vetting an at-home device:

Is the product made by a company you trust? If you’ve never heard of the company before, do some online research to determine whether it’s reputable — and if other consumers are benefitting from the product. A good place to start is the company’s website; look for a company statement, customer testimonials, etc. But don’t stop there. Other good sources to consult include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PubMed.gov, ThomasNet.com, Forbes.com, and Consumer Reports. While looking at other sources, keep an eye out for “bad press” — things like consumers experiencing adverse effects and product recalls. Also, check whether the product is FDA-approved. The FDA regulates food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices to protect consumers’ health.

Know how your device works. Basic knowledge of the technology your device uses is helpful. For example, if the device uses ultrasound therapy to relieve pain, research what ultrasound is and how it works. Understanding the technology will help you use the device correctly and derive the greatest benefits from it. Know the product’s intended use to make sure it matches the ailment you want to treat. And if you do purchase the device, read the directions carefully to ensure you are using it as intended by the manufacturer.

Consult your doctor. Your doctor may not have suggested the device to you, but he likely has some knowledge of it (or can ask another professional who does) to help you decide if it’s a good purchase.

Check your health insurance. Does it cover the cost or reimburse you for the device?

Find out where you can buy the product and what you need. Stores like CVS or Walgreens carry some medical devices so you can look at them in person, allowing you to read labels and instructions more easily. Find out if your doctor carries the product in his or her office, and check different vendors and websites, such as Amazon. Not only will you gather information and reviews about the product, but you can also compare prices and find the best value. It is also important to know if you need anything before you purchase the device, such as a prescription from your doctor.

Not all at-home medical products require extensive research. Products like contact lenses, crutches, and wheelchairs can be purchased easily with less information. Devices such as catheters, insulin injections, diabetes test kits, and electrical stimulation units require more in-depth research. The research tips above should be applied more thoroughly for any product that makes intimate contact with your body, and for devices that have a complex user interface.

Advancements in technology can save you time and money when it comes to your health by allowing you to purchase medical devices to use at home. To gain the greatest benefit for your health and get the best value, it’s important to invest time in researching your options and determining whether a product is a good fit for you.

By George Lewis, PhD for the Healthy Moms Magazine

George Lewis, PhD is the Chief Scientific Officer, inventor, and co-founder at ZetrOZ, the makers of the word’s smallest ultrasound pain therapy device. The device addresses the demands of non-pharmaceutical alternatives to current pain treatments in the over $200 billion global pain management market. Connect with George on Google+ and LinkedIn.

House Call: Vetting At-Home Medical Devices
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