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Clinical Trial To Begin Next Month

May 13, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Doctors are to begin a clinical trial next month to see if patients can modify their health-related behavior with the aid of computers that monitor diet, exercise and other factors.

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital’s Institute for Preventive Medicine said Wednesday that they will see if overweight patients keep closer tabs on their routines with the tiny computers than with paper-and-pencil reports.

Investigators from the Houston medical institutions, known for their work with heart disease, hope that credit card-sized computers will allow them to see how closely patients follow prescribed changes in their lifestyles and how those changes translate into health benefits.

″Health-related behavior, such as weight, levels of cholesterol, and use of tobacco and alcohol are directly related to heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes,″ said Dr. J. Alan Herd, medical director at the Institute for Preventive Medicine.

″One method which has shown success in behavior modification is self- monitoring and the analysis of self-reports to help a patient reach a set goal,″ he continued.

Herd said in a telephone interview that having patients do written reports is imprecise and often difficult for the doctor to interpret. People sometimes don’t record what they eat, the drugs they take or what execise they perform at the time of the event, and rely on memory to fill out reports later, he said.

The computer, which times entries and forces patients to use a consistent terminology, encourages good record-keeping and makes the data easily available to the doctor, he said.

The trial program, which will start in June with eight patients with computers compared with a similar group using traditional paper reports, may expand to 200 patients by the end of the year if the computers prove useful, Herd said.

The computers, made by SmartCard International Inc., of New York City, are like thick credit cards with tiny keyboards to enter information.

In the test program, patients bring their cards back to their doctors each week and the doctor puts the card into a reader device attached to a personal computer to retrieve information for the physician to see.

Arlen R. Lessin, president of SmartCard, said the quarter-inch-thick devices, which have memories equal to small desktop computers, have 10- character display windows that allow the patients to see the numbers and letters entered from the 20 keys.

Lessin said the battery-powered computer cards, which can be used to monitor many medical conditions, could cost between $25 and $50 each if thousands are produced for health purposes.

Unlike similar information cards that can only play back information programmed into them, he said, the keyboard card is a reuseable two-way device that actively involves the user.

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