Suffering from a Heart Condition, but Safe at Home - Telemedicine Prevents Death and Hospital Stays

Telemedicine could save hundreds of heart patients from a hospital stay each day. Studies show that digital, around-the-clock care can greatly improve life expectancy and quality of life. Experts see telecardiology as a promising early-warning system to improve the quality of care in heart patients – particularly in rural regions. How digital applications will characterize the future of cardiology is discussed by experts at the MEDICA EDUCATION CONFERENCE 2016 in Düsseldorf, on 16 November 2016.

Approximately 1,200,000 people in Germany are suffering from heart failure. With around 1,000 in-patient admissions per day, this disease is the most common reason for hospital stays. “Many chronic diseases deteriorate without noticeable symptoms presenting, until suddenly an emergency situation develops”, says Professor Dr. med. Friedrich Köhler, Head of the Centre for Cardiovascular Telemedicine at the Berlin Charité hospital. In most cases, these deteriorations can be measured before reaching this stage.

This also applies to heart failure: By using telecardiology, says Köhler, we can observe disease progression and intervene at an early stage in the case of conspicuous values. To this end, patients under telemedical care either receive measuring devices for their homes (e.g. tele-scales and tele-ECG), or data from pre-existing telemedical therapeutic implants (e.g. implanted defibrillators) can be used for therapy management. New developments include diagnostic implants specifically developed for telemedical therapy management, which can, for example, measure the pressure of the pulmonary arteries in the lung circulation of the patient. Based on these values, a cardiologist can, if necessary, individually adjust drug dosage, ask the patient to come in for a consultation, or order an immediate hospitalization. “Thanks to this digital early warning system, we can care for heart patients around the clock and spare them from unnecessary doctor´s visits or even hospital stays,” says Köhler.

Patient’s treatment could be improved, particularly in rural regions where a trip to the cardiologist often means a long journey. The aim of telemedicine is not to replace doctor´s visits, emphasizes Köhler: “A sole telemedical care is not allowed in Germany and would be undesirable from a medical point of view.”

The fact, that telecardiology can increase life expectancy and quality of life was shown by two large clinical trials. Thus, in the CHAMPION study heart values of the participants were determined via telecardiology on a daily basis and the drug dose was adjusted accordingly. The number of hospitalizations amongst these patients was reduced by one third. In the IN-TIME study physicians used telecardiology to treat heart patients with an implanted defibrillator: the participants had a significantly lower risk of death than patients without remote aftercare.

What kinds of telemedical methods are available for people with heart diseases, and how physicians can use them successfully, is discussed by experts at the MEDICA EDUCATION CONFERENCE 2016 in Düsseldorf on 16 November. On this day, the focus will be on the topic “Internal Medicine: Future Technologies and Remote Patient Management”. The MEDICA EDUCATION CONFERENCE is an interdisciplinary advanced training course of the German Society for Internal Medicine (DGIM) and the Messe Düsseldorf based on the motto “Science Meets Medical Technology” that is taking place from November 14 to 17, 2016 in Düsseldorf. For further information, see www.medica.de/mec2.

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