Telehealth monitoring cuts heart failure readmissions by 54%, $20K per patient

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A home telehealth monitoring program developed by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) has cut hospital readmission by 54 percent for heart failure patients. The program also has been shown to save up to $20,000 for each patient safely diverted from an emergency department visit, re-admission and hospital stay.

"Heart failure is a growing burden with substantial healthcare costs that we can reduce through prompt intervention. A very common problem is compliance among patients who leave hospital then stop taking their medication. They get sick again, arrive at the emergency room and end up back in hospital," said Christine Struthers, advanced practice nurse of cardiac telehealth at UOHI.

More than 500 heart failure patients have been followed by UOHI since 2005. Each day, patients measure and send their vitals signs -- from weight to heart rate and medication side effects -- to the Institute. The Institute also employs an automated calling system that reaches out to patients for surgical follow up, heart failure and coronary conditions ranging from chest pain to heart attack.

To evaluate home monitoring, the researchers tracked 121 heart failure patients in 2007-2008. Of these, 69.4 percent were readmitted at least once in the six-month period before being followed by telehealth monitoring. They found that readmission fell to 14.8 percent in the six-month period after the patients were tracked via telehealth monitoring -- a drop of 54 percent.

Patients are followed by UOHI for up to three months after they are discharged. They check and transmit their measurements daily at a prearranged time and data is transmitted by telephone to the Central Monitoring Station at the Institute. A nurse will respond immediately if any information is questionable or if a patient calls for help.

The Institute program provides daily remote nursing supervision for people with severe conditions. First developed for regional use, the Institute said its cardiac telehealth services now support nearly 1,200 patients from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, along with satellite sites in 13 hospitals in the Ottawa region.