The LifeSignal device provides a full twelve-lead ECG to diagnose all abnormalities from heart rhythm disorders to ischaemia. The smart phone or PDA automatically sends the data to a medical Web centre. Here, an expert nurse in cardiology assesses the ECG 24/7 and immediately contacts the patient through a mobile phone. The nurse analyses the ECG and discusses the patient's complaints. In case of doubt a cardiologist will be notified.
Advising cardiologist Menno Baars stated: "In most cases the patient can quickly be put at ease without the necessity for a hospital visit. Frequently people with chest pain turn up in emergency departments assuming they are having a heart attack while in reality they are suffering from esophegal pain or asthma. On the other hand the system is able to detect patients who really are at risk to suffer from heart attack but do not contact their physician nor the hospital emergency department and simply continue to live on with their complaints. In such cases, time is muscle since the first four hours after a heart attack are crucial. If no intervention has taken place within this time span, the damage can be irreparable and heart failure might be developed."
If the Tele-ECG indicates the patient is having a heart attack, the nurse at the medical Web centre immediately sends an ambulance in order to take the patient to the right hospital. "Being taken to the right hospital is very important", stressed Menno Baars. "In The Netherlands there are only a limited number of hospitals which are able to cope with heart problems. In no more than fifteen Dutch hospitals catheterisation is being performed. If the patient first arrives at the wrong hospital and has to be transported in a hurry to a specialized clinic, valuable time is being lost, time which the patient sometimes does not have anymore."
In The Netherlands some 35.000 to 40.000 people each year are having a heart attack. One third of these patients die before they arrive at the hospital. Menno Baars is trying to save those lives using Tele-ECG. "In the first instance we are focusing on patients at risk who just have suffered a heart attack. The chance that they might develop a second one within a year amounts to more than ten percent. Patients who underwent catheterisation run a risk of 15 to 45 percent that their complaints will reoccur within the first three months after the intervention."
Cardiologist Menno Baars is currently conducting intensive negotiations with different health insurance agencies in order to select patients who are eligible for an allowance if they sign in for an initially short-term subscription of the Tele-ECG service. Menno Baars has the intention to launch a test within the very near future involving some 50 patients in this target group and another 50 patients at high risk to incur a heart attack who are willing to pay themselves for a subscription. Menno Baars aims at involving people suffering from diabetes or managers who are smoking and have a demanding and stressing job.
The Tele-ECG device only costs a few hundred euros but subscription to the service is obligatory. Menno Baars expects that many health insurance agencies in the long run will reimburse these costs to patients at risk. "A great deal of money can be saved if people do not longer come to the hospital unnecessarily. And even if they do have to be admitted to an emergency unit, they will be taken to the right hospital immediately. In addition, the very costly heart failure cases due to lack of timely intervention will be prevented more often thanks to the Tele-ECG service", stated Menno Baars.
All test participants will be provided with an electronic medical record (EMR), allowing to make the exact diagnoses. The EMR will include the patient data as well as an ECG which is performed during the introductory appointment, the patient's medical history, and their use of medication. The EMR is automatically updated after each interaction with the Tele-ECG centre.
Menno Baars anticipates that in the future the Tele-ECG will also be used to check patients in out-patients departments. "Technological innovations make the Tele-ECG service suitable to be used for large amounts of patients. The service may even be the start for central ECG storage at a national level", concluded Menno Baars.
More information is available at the LifeSignal Heart Monitoring Web site. Source for this article is the Automatisering Gids.