Telemedicine is experiencing explosive growth, changing the way health care is delivered. One of the most exciting uses of telemedicine is remote cardiac monitoring. It provides physicians with a reliable diagnostic tool, an EKG, showing arrhythmias or other abnormal heart activity, recorded as patients go about their normal daily activities. According to the American Heart Association, while arrhythmias can occur in a healthy heart, they may also indicate a serious problem and lead to heart disease, stroke or sudden cardiac death.
Doctors say telemedicine helps diagnose patients who experience arrhythmias over a prolonged time-period. Only, these arrhytmias may not be present during an office examination. In many cases, this near real-time monitoring has proved to be life-saving, as patients with acute problems are directed immediately to a hospital emergency room for treatment.
Physician-prescribed cardiac monitoring uses a pager-sized device, applied in a doctor's office or hospital. The device enables a patient to record any abnormal experiences, such as palpitations or dizziness, and then transmit the information to a clinic where it is read and sent to the prescribing physician.
The digital data received at PDSHeart's monitoring clinic is immediately converted to a traditional EKG format and displayed on a computer screen to be read by the cardiac technician. Once the EKG is read, a report is prepared and faxed and/or Web published within minutes on a secure site for use by the patient's physician.
PDSHeart technicians most often only need to reassure patients that there is no cause for immediate concern. However, if the data transmitted shows a life-threatening situation, they immediately alert the physician or, if unavailable, local paramedics.
The experience of Cora Teague, of Mobile, Alabama, a recent PDSHeart monitoring patient, demonstrates the benefits of telemonitoring. She transmitted four episodes during the day and received a call from her physician early in the evening. "He told me he didn't like what he saw on the EKG and told me to meet him at the emergency room the first thing in the morning to be admitted", she explained. "It almost scared me to death, I am definitely grateful that I was wearing that monitor." The following day Cora Teague received a pacemaker to regulate her heartbeat.
Cora Teague, who has a history of heart problems, had experienced arrhythmias for months before her cardiologist fitted her with a looping, multi-event monitor provided by PDSHeart. PDSHeart technicians provided patient education and support, and encouraged her to transmit every episode during the monitoring period.
"The whole monitoring process was relatively easy", stated Cora Teague. "When I called PDSHeart, they were very thorough in recording the baseline information, and made sure that I didn't have any problems with the process. When I did have a question and called in, the technicians were very patient and worked me through my concerns."
Dr. Harry Bayron, PDSHeart's medical director, noted that remote monitoring is ideal in pinpointing problems like Cora Teague's. "It's impossible to monitor a patient in a physician's office 24 hours a day, every day", he stated. "Episodes don't happen on cue. Remote monitoring can provide accurate information on what the patient has been feeling. In this case, the doctor determined that the patient should be directed to the hospital immediately, where he could be in control of the situation. Patients have a comfort level in knowing their physicians have access to medically sound diagnostics, even if the patient is at home or work."
PDSHeart monitors about 6000 patients on a typical day. Customers for its services include 4000 clinics, 12.000 doctors, 110 hospitals and 30 universities nationwide. The company's pager-sized cardiac event monitors, its flagship product, are typically prescribed for 30 days. PDSHeart also provides WebHolter, the first Web-based generation of traditional Holter monitors, which record heart activity over a 24-hour period. Other services include pacemaker testing, and the company intends to remain at the forefront of diagnostic telemedicine.
The Navix Diagnostix acquisition combines PDSHeart's commitment to quality and technological expertise with the long-standing reputation of Navix Diagnostix for premium remote cardiac event monitoring service. PDSHeart's state-of-the-art cardiac monitoring clinic in West Palm Beach, Florida is staffed 24/7 by certified cardiac technicians. More news on PDSHeart's Physicians' CardioTrace acquisition is available in the VMW August 2003 article PDSHeart moving into pacemaker monitoring services with acquisition of Physicians' CardioTrace.