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Home Medical Monitoring Made Difficult?

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In addition to doing the six-person observational study, the researchers also surveyed 26 diabetics to find out how much trouble they experience using a glucose meter. Forty percent of these participants said they were not comfortable using one until they had used it three or four times. Most of them learned how to use the device on their own, and about a third responded that a medical professional instructed them.

The researchers concluded that based on previous studies, their task for the six people, reported problems from users of the devices, and difficulties they have noticed, people clearly have problems when using these devices, and there are many ways that a mistake could be made. "If they are unable to use meters properly, patients are unable to adjust treatment of their diabetes," they write.

"The instructions for the meters are not done from the users' point of view," Rogers says. "We need to do usability studies on how the instructions are written."

She recommends that developers improve the design of the monitors so that they provide prompts for directing the sequence of steps necessary for taking samples for blood sugar, and presenting both video and written instructions in simple language.

But some diabetes healthcare professionals say that current monitors don't present problems to users, unless they are mentally or physically disabled. Some glucose meters are even designed for the blind; they will talk to you.

"You can take someone who is basically illiterate and show them, and they can do it," says Marilyn Alford, MSN, RN, CS. "Even most 6- and 7-year-olds can use it themselves with their parents' guidance."

The monitors are uncomplicated, just requiring the patient to stick his finger in a hole in the machine and push a button, says Alford, a regional recruiting coordinator for a diabetes type 1 clinical trial at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Mabyn Hager, RN, CDE, a diabetes educator at Baylor Medical Center in Irving, Texas, agrees that monitors currently available are "very easy to use."

"Most have memory with time and date, and they can be downloaded to a computer so the patient can get a printout with pie charts or graphs that they can take to their doctor," Hager says. Many are available in different languages.

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