TELEMEDICINE-based interventional management of heart failure patients has been shown to prolong survival and reduce hospitalisations, regardless of whether the patients live in rural or urban areas. These results mean that not only can telemedicine improve the quality of care, it can also diminish regional differences in healthcare provisions that can influence patient outcomes.
In collaboration with 113 cardiology care providers and 87 general practitioners, researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany, studied 1,538 patients with chronic heart failure receiving standard care. Half of the study population were enrolled on a trial to receive standard care plus remote patient management via four devices: an ECG monitor with oxygen saturation measurement, a blood pressure monitor, body weight scales, and a tablet device to self-report health status data. The other study population received only standard care. Data from all patients in the remote management group were continuously transferred to a medical team who could promptly initiate changes to the patients’ treatment. The trial’s primary outcomes were increased life expectancy, the avoidance of unplanned cardiac-related hospitalisations, and maintaining treatment outside of a hospital setting. Further objectives included investigating potential improvements in the gap between medical care in rural and urban locations.
The results showed that the telemedical management group had fewer days in hospital due to heart failure-related hospitalisations than the patients in the control group: 3.8 days per year versus 5.6 days per year, respectively. All-cause mortality was also reduced in the remote intervention group, for whom the death rate was around 8% compared to approximately 11% in the controls. These data highlighted the effectiveness of telemedicine in increasing life expectancy for patients with heart failure, and the results were applicable irrespective of whether the patient lived in a rural or metropolitan location.
Commenting on the implications of these results for the future, research team lead, Prof Dr Friedrich Köhler, Centre for Cardiovascular Telemedicine, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, stated: “As a next step, we would like to evaluate our data from a health economics perspective and identify where telemedicine might be able to deliver cost savings for our healthcare system.” He added that the team will also be investigating the long-term effect of telemedical interventional management on disease progression after 1 year.