|The dashboard of a 1965 VW Beetle with no fuel gauge. Photo from here.|
Today, a person living with a modern implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) has as much up-to-date information about his device as the driver of a ’65 Beetle had about his vehicle’s fuel level 50 years ago. Patients must rely on regular (and costly) stops to an electrophysiologist’s office to ensure they won’t suddenly find themselves by the side of the road.
It begs the question:
Why should physicians be the only ones with the keys to such useful and vital information?
They shouldn’t—particularly as health care becomes more participatory and more and more patients demand to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their health.
During the most recent visit to my EP’s office, the doctor checked my device, told me all was well, and sent me home with a $445 bill. (My insurance later adjusted it by $140, dropping it to the amount I now owe the clinic: $305.)
Ever since getting the ICD almost three years ago, I’ve been making regular visits to the EP’s office every four to six months. It adds up.
Like the driver of a ’65 Beetle who frets about running out of gas, I long for the day when my ICD will warn me by SMS, instant message or email of an impending peril.
Paying hundreds of dollars for unnecessary visits to my doctor is like paying for visits to the mechanic whether you need him or not. You would be just as unhappy if all he did was reassure you that the car was fine and sent you home with a bill for $400.
Today, most ICDs can be monitored remotely by the manufacturer and the doctor’s clinic. But the data collected by the device is not available to the single most important stakeholder in this equation: the patient.
All I’m asking for is to take on some of the responsibility for monitoring my own device. More access means improved health outcomes and better quality of life. But it also means keeping more money in my pocket.
|Me, age 5, next to my parents' late sixties VW Beetle. Photo taken in 1971.|