It is advisable to talk to your doctor, or the person managing your warfarin treatment, to discuss your options around self–monitoring. At the present time, the monitors are not available on prescription from the NHS but the strips used in the monitors to measure the INR readings are available on prescription.
Before purchasing a coagulometer, you should discuss this option with your doctor as whilst some GPs are very keen to encourage patients to self–monitor, the decision to support patients may not be endorsed by the local clinical commissioning group who direct prescribers as to what can and can’t be offered to patients.
To use the device effectively, people will need to be able to use a lancet pen to obtain a drop of blood to place on the strip and this requires and have reasonable eyesight to see where the blood needs to be placed and read the INR result which appears on the screen in bold letters. Carers and parents can of course help with someone who cannot manage this.
You will be shown how to use the monitor and the doctor or nurse will want to be sure that you can use the monitor effectively in order that the INR results can be recorded. You would then be asked to send your results to the doctor or nurse. There are many ways you may be asked to do this such as by text, by telephone or email. You will then be contacted with the result of your test and if necessary any dose adjustments that need to be made.
Some long-term users may want to progress to self–management. Self-management is where you test the blood and make the dose adjustments yourself. Your doctor or nurse would teach you how to do this and you can also access guidance using online resources.
The monitors were approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in 2014 and the recommendation is that for people who have atrial fibrillation and for people who have replacement heart valves, self–monitoring should be considered:
- if preferred by a patient if the patient (or carer) is physically and cognitively able to perform the test
- an adequate supportive educational programme is in place to train patients/carers
- the patient’s ability to self-manage
- the device is regularly checked via a quality control programme
Recent developments have seen the introduction of self–monitoring being offered to a broad population across a specific region. This forms part of the anticoagulation services on offer and provides a complete package for the patient who can use a dedicated telehealth system to update their INR results to a central point which is managed by experienced anticoagulation nurses.
For people outside of these schemes, you may need to consider purchasing your own monitor, as they are not available on prescription. The testing strips used in the monitors have been available on prescription since 2002. ACUK are aware that some GPs are unwilling to prescribe them. Both the monitors and the testing strips can be purchased direct from the manufacturer.
There are many aids and Apps to help you look after yourself whilst taking anticoagulants. They give you advice, let you record your INR and other important information, remind you when to take your medication.
One such example is the Engage App. See below.