Baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964, according to Wikipedia, constitute the second-largest generation following millennials. This group grew up knowing the value of healthcare and taking care of themselves. In addition to making their own healthcare decisions, many of them are now caring for aging parents as well. Today, they value the advances and healthcare options offered by technology. In fact, they have adapted quite well to the internet and have embraced social media: 83% of baby boomers ages 51 to 59 and 76% of those ages 60 to 69 use the internet regularly, according to The Pew Research Center.
But how exactly are baby boomers using the internet and technology when making healthcare decisions?
Baby boomers have a lot of confidence in their healthcare team and rely on what their doctors tell them. However, they like to research what they have been told to gain more insight on their health issues. They enjoy using healthcare portals to locate information or come up with questions for their doctors. For example, my 94-year-old grandfather is completely independent and living on his own, and he loves using the computer or even his iPhone to research medical terms mentioned by his doctor. He is being very proactive in his own care.
How have technological advances augmented the medical team?
My grandfather had some previous syncopal episodes (i.e., he passed out) that had been attributed to dehydration as a result of living in Florida, and doctors never really found anything wrong with him. He’s in wonderful health—so great, in fact, that he was taking ballroom dancing lessons right before his 90th birthday, when his last syncopal episode occurred. An ambulance was called, and he landed in ICU with a pacemaker. He’s fine now; they had not performed cardiac monitoring long enough previously to find the problem. Today, we have new technology that can do that—an insertable cardiac monitor (ICM).
ICMs are small (i.e., about one-third the size of a AAA battery) physical heart monitors that are implanted under the skin on the left chest wall. They can be inserted very quickly into a patient who is fully awake and alert. Traditional methods of monitoring the heart include using such techniques as electrocardiograms (EKGs) that take snapshots of heart activity or Holter monitors that monitor the heart constantly for 24 to 48 hours or up to 30 days. But both methods have significant blind spots and can miss hard-to-find cardiac events.
ICMs can detect and treat difficult-to-identify cardiac arrhythmias that might otherwise go undetected and could lead to syncopal episodes and possible further injury, or even worse—a heart attack and death. Studies performed by Medtronic have proven its Reveal LINQ Advantage detects 99.4% of atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) episodes. If left untreated, A-Fib can be life threatening. The implanted LINQ monitor is a loop recorder that captures hard-to-detect cardiac events. Cardiologists use this device for long-term cardiac monitoring in patients with unexplained syncope, heart arrhythmia and palpitations. It’s important to note that it can’t be used for all patients; contraindications include active infections and bleeding disorders.
How is ICM information relayed to the doctor?
The ICM conducts constant monitoring of a patient’s heart. Patients can travel anywhere with the device as long as they are within cell range for the monitor. They are given a “patient assistant” to carry in a pocket or near the body. Each time the patient feels a symptom such as heart palpitations and skipped beats, he or she presses a button and holds it over the device. A blue flashing light will turn green to let the patient know the information has been successfully relayed. The information is transmitted to the doctor in real time by a device at the patient’s bedside. Medtronic’s version of this device, the MyCareLink Patient Monitor, transmits information over Medtronic’s own CareLink Network. The doctor can then analyze the data and contact the patient regarding any irregularities that are cause for concern. According to the Medtronic study, 79% of physicians said wireless alerts resulted in earlier clinical decisions.
One can’t understate technology’s impact on all aspects of our lives. But for baby boomers, its biggest impact has yet to be realized. As this group ages, the quality and timeliness of their healthcare will increase dramatically. The LINQ ICM is an excellent example of how modern technology can improve the quality of baby boomers’ health as well as their healthcare.
Christine Kerravala, RN
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