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13th October 2022
Digital health interventions (DHIs) have contributed to the transformation of healthcare delivery in the past decade and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic when interventions such as telemedicine for remote consultations became the ‘norm’ in many specialities. Nevertheless, while imposed in many therapy areas during the pandemic, there are actually potential benefits for patients cardiovascular disease. For example, connected health technologies e.g., mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, smartwatches, personal health sensors, all provide an opportunity to revolutionise cardiovascular disease prevention through personalised, convenient, and easily accessible patient education and behaviour change support. The value of DHIs for the prevention of cardiovascular disease was explored in a systematic review and meta-analysis in 2015, in which the authors concluded that the available data provide evidence that DHIs can reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes and have a positive impact on risk factors for CVD. However, given that the data used in the aforementioned meta-analysis was collected more than 8 years ago and the COVID-19 pandemic lead to enforced telemedicine and remote monitoring, for the present study, a Malaysian team of researchers sought to update the effectiveness of DHIs for patients with cardiovascular disease.
The researchers included randomised trials, observational and cohort studies that specifically addressed the effect of a telemedicine intervention on cardiovascular outcomes for those either at risk (i.e., for primary prevention) or those with established CVD (secondary prevention). The primary outcome was cardiovascular-related mortality, whereas secondary outcomes included hospitalisation, all-cause mortality and all-cause hospitalisation. Interventions were categorised as remote consultations; remote monitoring of health or diagnostic measures; transmission of medical data and finally remote case management.
Heart failure and cardiovascular outcomes
A total of 72 studies with 127,869 participants (65% male) were included in the analysis. The duration of studies ranged from 1 to 79 months and 49 were short-term (< 12 months) and 22 long-term (> 12 months). Overall, 39 studies included patients with heart failure, 19 addressed secondary prevention and 12 primary prevention.
For heart failure patients, combined remote monitoring and consultation were associated with a 17% reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality (risk ratio, RR = 0.83, 95% CI 0.70 – 0.99, p = 0.036). In addition, this combination significantly reduced hospitalisation for a cardiovascular cause (RR = 0.71, 95% CI 0.58 – 0.87, p = 0.0002) though this was largely in short-term (i.e., < 12 month) studies. However, telemedicine had no effect on all-cause hospitalisation among those with heart failure (RR = 1.02, 95% CI 0.94 – 1.10, p = 0.71).
In secondary prevention studies, the combination of remote monitoring and consultation was associated with a small reduction in systolic blood pressure (mean difference = -3.59, p < 0.0001) but not on diastolic pressure. There was also a small but significant effect of remote consultations on body-mass index (p < 0.0064) in primary prevention.
The authors concluded that a combination of remote disease monitoring and consultation appeared to reduce cardiovascular-related hospitalisation and mortality risk among patients with heart failure in the short-term. They called for future research to evaluate the sustained effect of telemedicine interventions.
Kuan PX et al. Efficacy of telemedicine for the management of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis Lancet Digit Health 2022
13th September 2021
When members of the public are faced with a medical emergency, such as an injury or an individual collapsing in the street, they contact emergency services and speak with a medical dispatcher for assistance. This is vital for effective triage of a situation and ensures appropriate resource allocation, avoiding any delays for critical conditions. Appropriate triage is extremely important, especially with research showing that over-crowding within emergency departments is associated with a higher level of inpatient mortality. The use of live video from a bystander’s mobile phone could potentially provide dispatchers with more information about the clinical condition of the patient although this topic has poor poorly studied. In fact, its value was seen as an aid to helicopter emergency services in a small UK-based study. In contrast, another study that compared audio and video-assisted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, concluded that there was no survival benefit from video-assistance.
In trying to gather more evidence to ascertain the value of video streaming, a team from the Copenhagen Emergency Medical Services, University of Copenhagen, set out to assess the feasibility and dispatcher’s perceptions and responses after the addition of live video from bystanders making emergency calls. In Denmark, medical dispatchers are trained nurses or paramedics and for the purposes of the study, were able to decide whether or not to utilise live video although it was recommended if the patient was unconscious or potentially had a cardiac arrest. The team collected information on whether the emergency response changed as a result of videoing , e.g., whether an ambulance was dispatched, with or without sirens, if it was deemed non-urgent or if the individual could self-transport to the emergency department. The medical dispatchers were issued with a follow-up questionnaire where they were asked to evaluate the use of live video calls.
A total of 1020 live video calls were attempted and successful in 838 (82.2%) of cases with over half (53.7%) for male patients and a third (33%) were for patients aged 10 to 39 years of age. Live video calls were made for a large number of symptoms including unconscious adults (12.4%), seizures/convulsions (9.1%), accidents (8.6%) and wounds/fractures/minor injuries (7.3%).
There were 637 medical dispatchers who responded to the follow-up questionnaire, of whom, 88.6% stated that the use of video was either “extremely useful” or “very useful”. In addition, dispatchers stated that their assessment of the patient had changed in 51.1% of the live video calls, with 12.9% deemed more critical and 38.2% less critical. This resulted in a change to the emergency response in 27.5% of cases compared to not using live video, such that the odds for changing the emergency response were 58% higher (odds ratio, OR = 1.58, 95% CI 1.30–1.91). Interestingly, in 9.9% of live video calls, the dispatchers reported that seeing the patient enabled them to recognise another problem.
The authors discussed how the use of live video calls was both feasible and of benefit to medical dispatchers, giving them “eyes”, which improved their situational awareness. While this innovation was clearly of value, the authors suggested that a paradigm shift is required to implement these changes because medical dispatchers are currently trained in traditional protocols based on verbal questions and answers.
Linderoth G et al. Live video from bystanders’ smartphones to medical dispatchers in real emergencies. BMC Emerg Med 2021
25th June 2021
In a 2010 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), it was suggested that information and communication technologies (ICT) have a great potential to address some of the challenges faced by both developed and developing countries in the provision of accessible, cost-effective and high-quality health care. The WHO reported recommended that countries capitalise on the potential of ICT so that ultimately telemedicine strengthens, rather than competes with, other health services. While a 2012 observational study found that the value of virtual consultations was broadly similar to traditional face-to-face methods, a 2015 systemic review concluded that electronic consultations (or e-consults), are feasible in a variety of settings, flexible and facilitate timely speciality advice. Fast forward 10 years and in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, health service providers have been forced into augmenting their ICT to enable continuity of clinical care. But what are today’s clinician’s perception of telemedicine consultations was a question addressed by a team from the department of medicine, Yale university, US. The team focused on physicians working in the area of infectious diseases (ID) and recruited two groups of participants: referring providers, i.e., physician assistants, advanced nurse practitioners and the ID consultants themselves based at the hospital.
The team created a web-based survey and defined an electronic consult or “e-consult” as a telemedicine consultation. The level of satisfaction with e-consults was assessed via perceptions of the quality, timeliness and amount of verbal communication compared with traditional face-to-face consultations, based on three categories: worse, the same or better. In addition, using the same three categories, respondents were asked “compared to traditional consults, e-consults provided good clinical care”.
A total of 130 surveys were analysed, representing a 23.6% response rate and completed by 107 referring providers and 23 ID consultants. Considering e-consults to traditional methods, in terms of quality, overall, 66.9% of respondents stated that these were either the same or better; with respect to timeliness, 95% reported that e-consults were the same or better and finally, 80% of respondents felt that communication was the same or better. In total, 80% of respondents agreed that e-consults provided good clinical care. However, there were some differences between the two groups of respondents. For instance, the majority (73.9%) of consultants rated the quality of care as being worse than face-to-face versus 24.3% for providers and 91.3% of consultants (versus 44.9% of referring providers) reported that timeliness was better for e-consults. Furthermore, a higher proportion of consultants felt that there were specific situations where face-to-face consultations were necessary (87% vs 33.6%).
In a discussion of their findings, the authors reported that it was reassuring to see an overall high level of agreement that e-consults provided good clinical care. While it was not explored in the study, they suspected that the poor rating for the quality of e-consults among consultants was probably a reflection of the need to undertake a physical examination of a patient with an infective disease. They concluded that future studies should explore the reasons for consultant dissatisfaction with telemedicine and the effect of virtual consultations on infectious disease outcomes.
Canterino JE, Wang K, Golden M. Provider Satisfaction with Infectious Diseases Telemedicine Consults for Hospitalised Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Clin Infect Dis 2021