DALLAS – With a quick blow into an airflow meter, 5-year-old Colton Richards' mom can assess how well her asthmatic son's lungs are working — all without going to the doctor's office.
"Oh, that can save doctor's fees, doctor's visits, the gas, just not having to go and wait in the doctor's office for an hour or two or however long it may take," the child's mother, Amber Richards, said.
She's part of a growing health care trend: Americans managing their own health care from home due to a growing number of available products that enable do-it-yourself testing on a range of illnesses and diseases from strep throat to diabetes.
Handy, at-home diagnostics and state-of-the-art blood glucose kits for diabetics allow them to monitor their disease better than ever.
Click in the video box above to watch a report by FOX News’ Phil Keating.
Certain glucose meters use strips coated with chemicals that interact with blood composition and whose results are read by placing the strip in the meter.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site: "Some models can connect to personal computers to store test results or print them out."
Anton Hubert Clemens received the first patent for a blood-glucose meter, the Ames Reflectance Meter, in 1971, the FDA site states. Since then, more than two dozen glucose meters have become available, differing in amount of blood needed for each test, speed, size, memory capacity and price.
Among those variables, price appears to play the most important role in patients' choosing do-it-yourself care, with many citing spiraling health care costs that have forced them to find alternatives.
Another such home-based remedy includes the Dallas-based initiative "Tele-Doc," (search) which allows patients to speak with a doctor and get prescriptions over the phone for $35 a call.
Dr. Devon Herrick studied this trend for the National Center for Policy Analysis (search).
"They say that about one-quarter of all physician visits are, in fact, for things patients could treat themselves, " Herrick said. "Approximately $30 billion a year is spent on unnecessary doctors and unnecessary emergency room visits."
But health experts say the value of regular person-to-person visits with a doctor simply cannot be replaced with over-the-counter kits.
"The more you move the patient away from the doctor as far as the diagnoses go and the evaluation goes, the more likely that an incorrect or delayed diagnosis will be made," according to Dr. Richard Tenery Jr. of the Texas Medical Association (search).
Incorrect diagnoses and evaluations can be doubly costly, causing an even higher financial burden once a patient finally visits the doctor. And if a disease goes undetected for too long, it could cost the patient his life.