Retail Clinics and In-Home Assessments Improve Osteoporosis Screening

May 2, 2019 Jeanette Stern

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that primarily affects older adults, and predisposes them to dangerous, painful, and expensive fractures. The hallmark of the disease is low bone mass, or low mineral density in the bones. This low bone mass means the bones are more fragile and brittle. A combination of changing hormones that impact bone strength, along with exercise and diet, predisposes older adults to the condition. Newest estimates are that 54 million Americans have low bone mass, which puts them at risk for osteoporosis and fractures.

There are treatments available for osteoporosis which include medications, mineral supplements, diet, and exercise. It is a progressive condition that will continue to get worse without treatment. But the condition has to be diagnosed with a radiology test called a DXA scan. Like all tests that need to be done outside the doctor's office, this one gets put on the back burner for many adults when they have not had an identified problem. In fact, many adults don't have their osteoporosis identified until after a fracture.

It is a standard quality measurement to screen for osteoporosis for any adult who suffers a fracture within six months of the injury. But even with easily available screening tests for low bone mass, this quality measure has low compliance. Falls can cause fractures, as can osteoporosis, so it is important to identify the cause of the fracture and begin treatment. If the cause is not identified and corrected, it can happen again, and fractures in the older adult bring considerable disability.

A common cause of falls and subsequent fractures is adverse reactions or interactions between prescription medications and over the counter drugs. The symptom of dizziness or light-headedness on first arising is common with many blood pressure medications, and mixing those with sleep aids can worsen the effect. Part of the Health Risk Assessment is screening for these types of side effects that can predispose older adults to falls and fractures. But the most common cause of fractures that are associated with falls remains, or is complicated by, osteoporosis.

The bone mineral density screening test is an easy, quick, and non-invasive ultrasound of the heel. People don't have to undress, and the screening test is combined with education about prevention and treatment.

One of the benefits of MED-XM's bone mass screenings is the quick ultrasound of the heel can be done in the home or in the retail clinics. The retail clinics are available with extended hours and in convenient locations, so a trip to get groceries, medications, or other essentials can be combined with a quick trip for an ultrasound of the heel.

If the heel ultrasound shows the bone mass is low, this information is forwarded to the primary care provider. The DXA scan is then ordered, and treatment can begin. If the bone density is normal, people can take the education regarding diet and exercise and begin to protect their bone health. Having the screening results in the medical record can also provide for comparison if a later fracture occurs, or if treatment is begun. The response to treatment can be evaluated using this simple screening test.

In addition to the bone mass ultrasound to test for osteoporosis, many screenings for health and management of illness can be done quickly and inexpensively in retail health clinics. Blood pressure screenings, cardiac risk assessments, weight measurements, and other important metrics can be performed by trained staff members with little waiting. Monitoring the signs of chronic disease, and combining that monitoring with education and support for lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, may help the efforts of people attempting difficult lifestyle changes.

Can we answer questions about bone mass screening or osteoporosis? Please get in touch.

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