For many persons with chronic conditions like hypertension or diabetes, self-monitoring devices such as blood pressure (BP) monitors and glucose monitoring meters (or glucometers), have become a necessity. Regular basic health monitoring enables patients to better manage their condition so as to prevent or delay onset of complications. Unfortunately, there are financial barriers exist for some patients to own devices to perform self-monitoring.
“Chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes are largely without symptoms. Patients with these diseases often feel normal, but that does not mean that their condition is well-managed,” explained Dr Ian Phoon, Family Physician, Consultant, Pasir Ris Polyclinic. “Damage to their internal organs like the heart and kidneys occurs insidiously over many years, without the patient’s knowledge. Thus the only way to know one’s true health status is to use these monitoring devices to check on one’s own blood pressure and sugar levels.”
One patient, Mr John Ling can attest to this. It was only after a routine company health check-up in 1997 that Mr Ling first discovered that he had diabetes. At that time, he was leading a hectic life, holding a full-time job while studying part-time and looking after his children.
This diagnosis prompted him to initially change his lifestyle by exercising regularly and watching his diet. But the efforts petered off and not long after he stopped his regular workout, his blood sugar levels surged and he needed diabetic medications soon after.
“With my glucose levels fluctuating, I had to find ways to manage my condition. However, I could not afford a glucometer. Without it, I wouldn’t know how high or low my glucose levels were, and which meals were triggering these changes,” said Mr Ling.
To assist patients like Mr Ling monitor his health at home, SHP started the ‘Self Care Support Programme’ (SCSP). Launched in the last quarter of 2020, SCSP helps to subsidise the cost of self-monitoring devices for patients who qualify for assistance.
Many of these SHP patients with diabetes and hypertension may not have access to enable them to take control of their conditions as they do not qualify for the existing financial assistance schemes. While their financial situation is not dire, they tend to not prioritise the need to purchase a self-monitoring device as they have other more pressing financial concerns.
“We decided to come up with a programme that helps to subsidise the cost of these devices by about 50 per cent so that patients will have a sense of ownership,” shared Dr Phoon.
Now with his own glucometer set, Mr Ling is able to take better control of diabetes and make positive lifestyle choices. “There was once I ate some cookies as a snack, and got a rude awakening when my glucose level went through the roof! It was a wake-up call to cut down on my sugary food and drinks.”
“Being able to monitor my glucose level ‘real-time’ also spurred me on to include exercising as part of my daily activities,” added Mr Ling. “I realised that my glucose level would drop to the normal range after exercising. I now exercise regularly with my wife, and would even sign up for exercises classes conducted over Zoom.”
As at 30 Apr 2021, SHP has subsidised 290 digital BP sets, and 72 glucometer sets, and are looking to help more of their patients, a number of whom have both diseases. “We are hoping to partner with like-minded individuals or organisations to raise funds so that we can empower more patients to take charge of their health. This is especially crucial during this COVID-19 situation that patients can monitor their illnesses at home without the need of making a trip to a clinic to do the same,” said Dr Phoon.
“Your donations will help lower the financial barrier for needy patients at SHP to start on their journey of self-monitoring, so that they can make positive changes to their lives and improve their health. In the long run, with more patients being able to manage their chronic diseases well at home, we will help to lower the burden of these diseases on society and enable more people to live healthier lives”
To find out how you can help financially challenged patients like these, you can visit polyclinic.singhealth.com.sg, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6350-7549.