Southampton City Primary Care Trust uses Telemedicine ECG service to add cardiology expertise

Southampton 29 November 2007Southampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT) is deploying a telemedical electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation service to give expert cardiology reporting for patients in clinics. The service delivers immediate diagnosis from qualified clinicians at a primary care level, whilst reducing the pressures on acute health care providers within Southampton City PCT.

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The cardiac monitoring service, from award-winning specialist Broomwell Healthwatch, offers non-cardiology clinicians accurate, expert, diagnostic support, enabling them to make informed clinical decisions and provide preventative support to patients with chest pain symptoms. This will reduce the need for hospitalisation and deliver cost and resource savings to Southampton City PCT.

Southampton City PCT has in excess of 250.000 registered patients. With a single cardiac bed costing the PCT GBP3000 per week, the Heartview Professional service from Broomwell Healthwatch, costing GBP1500 per annum, will ensure clear cost benefits across the Trust by reducing the number of patient referrals to local acute hospitals, freeing up beds and reducing some of the pressures on the ambulance service and local emergency departments.

The Heartview Professional service has proven to be a vital diagnostic aid for both general practitioners (GPs) and nurse practitioners in other parts of the United Kingdom in making informed clinical decisions and improving outcomes. It has also provided strong clinical risk management; ensuring patients receive the correct care.

Chris Webb, Specialist and Clinical Equipment Services Manager for Southampton City PCT, stated: "The Heartview Professional service has proved to be an invaluable asset to Southampton City PCT and there has been good support for the service from the PCT's cardiac team. Work is now under way to expand the usage into GP practices. Delivering optimal patient care is the Trust's priority and having access to fast, expert advice on sometimes complex cardiac issues is an invaluable aid."

The service has also had a positive response from patients. Using cardiac telemedicine alongside other conventional methods of evaluation delivers a fast and accurate diagnosis, reassuring the majority of patients that their chest pain symptoms are not indicative of any immediate threatening condition, thus preventing unnecessary hospital visits, whilst those in immediate danger are transferred to definitive care.

Chris Webb continued: "For Southampton City PCT, the Broomwell service has been of tremendous value. It is flexible, available round-the-clock and the staff are always helpful, and we are now looking to widen the usage across more PCT services. I believe that cardiac telemedicine such as this should be deployed more widely within the primary care environment as the results show a benefit to patients."

The telemedicine approach has been used successfully across a number of primary care bodies in the United Kingdom. A pilot by NHS Northwest, using Broomwell's handheld ECG device and monitoring service, showed 82 percent of patients did not need to go to hospital following a test, and demonstrated the potential to save 90.000 A&E visits, 45.000 hospital admissions and minimum savings of GBP46 million per year to the NHS simply by cutting unnecessary hospital admissions and A&E visits for chest pain symptoms. Following the pilot, virtually all the PCTs in Greater Manchester have joined the service.

Data from Broomwell's own research has shown that in over 8000 tests in past months, 90 percent of even symptomatic patients were managed and reassured by their local GP, and did not need hospitalisation. It is understood that without the service, at least 50 percent of those would have been referred to hospital (A&E or Outpatients). Previously, patients with known cardiac conditions within Southampton City PCT were often admitted straight to hospital for an ECG, which was a time consuming and expensive process.

Broomwell were contracted to work with Southampton City PCT following a successful bid to enter a European project sponsoring such initiatives. Chris Webb added: "Cardiac telemedicine can complement the expertise of local cardiologists to community services, which helps to ensure NHS resources are optimised and used effectively."

Broomwell Healthwatch gives GPs and other health care professionals access to immediate, expert interpretation of ECGs by experienced cardiology-trained clinicians. Broomwell's hand-held 12-lead ECG machine is used by a nurse, clinician or paramedic in the same way as a conventional machine. When the ECG is complete, it is transmitted as a sound signal by landline telephone or by fax in just 45 seconds to Broomwell's monitoring centre, where it is displayed on screen for interpretation by experienced clinicians.

Based on the high-quality ECG trace, Broomwell staff give an immediate verbal interpretation by phone so that action can be taken quickly, if needed. A full written ECG report is also sent to the GP surgery by e-mail or fax for inclusion in the patient record. Because constant communication with the patient's doctor, nurse or paramedic is maintained during the test, the quality of patient care is high.

The company was established in 2004 to provide telemedical monitoring services to GPs, Walk-in Centres, Community Hospitals and private individuals. Broomwell's solutions include the wristwatch-like MiniClinic, which is linked to the company's monitoring centre by a home base station, 12-lead portable ECGs, and weight control solutions for congestive heart failure. These are supported by Broomwell's 24-hour cardiac monitoring centre, which is staffed by experienced cardiology-trained clinicians giving immediate, expert interpretation of ECGs. Broomwell has recently won the prestigious HSJ Award 2007 for 'Improving Care with e-Technology'. More company news is available in the VMW November 2007 article Broomwell's life-saving cardiac monitoring service chosen for pioneering new NHS initiative.


Leslie Versweyveld

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