The use of telemonitoring for cardiac patients is increasing - despite mixed evidence as to how effective it really is.
Remotely monitoring patients' vital signs is a more popular practice in some parts of the UK than others and researchers have called for more studies on its efficacy. But advocates claim it has the potential to enhance patients' quality of life - and save money.
At least 750,000 people in the UK are thought to have heart failure (according to the British Heart Foundation) and their treatment accounts for around 2% of all healthcare costs in the UK.
Numbers are expected to rise, promoting more interest in the ability of telemonitoring to keep people out of hospital, improve clinical outcomes and promote more effective working by healthcare practitioners.
The system works by providing equipment to patients living at home with a diagnosis of heart failure. This usually includes weighing scales, a sphygmomanometer and a central telemonitoring device.
This reminds people to complete their recordings, collates data and asks a series of 'wellbeing' questions such as 'do you feel more breathless than usual today?' The information is sent to a central server. If any of the readings are out of the ordinary the system generates a 'red flag.' A repeat reading may be taken or the patient is contacted by phone.
The rationale is that early detection of any deterioration allows for timely intervention that can prevent hospital admission.
This Nursing Standard article describes how telemonitoring is being used in practice and explores the evidence base for its use.
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