Remote monitoring of heart health can vastly improve medical care for some cardiovascular patients

When travel across the cities and states to visit a doctor is impossible or undesirable, remote monitoring is a boon to patients that have implanted devices like pacemakers.

Kartikeya Bhargava December 17, 2020 17:07:58 IST
Remote monitoring of heart health can vastly improve medical care for some cardiovascular patients

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

According to a series of studies published in The Lancet and associated journals, India has witnessed an alarming rise in the occurrence of heart diseases over the past 25 years. In addition, a recent report by the World Health Organization highlights that heart diseases, also known as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. This constitutes nearly 31 percent of deaths worldwide. It has also been observed that 85 percent of heart diseases comprise heart attacks and strokes.

Several heart conditions are clubbed together under the CVD umbrella – congenital disease of the heart, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and heart attacks. The risk factors for the rising incidence of CVDs include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, drug use, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, consumption of alcohol and obesity among others.

Health technology has come a long way in cardiac care, reshaping and redefining the doctor-patient connection in terms of both patient care and treatment/management. Digital health solutions are the way forward for improving efficiency of care and patient-physician relations in the cardiovascular segment. One such health innovation in cardiac care is the Remote Monitoring Technology. With the aim of encouraging greater patient engagement through a wide variety of benefits – some of which include monitoring with smartphone, connectivity and applications – remote monitoring will play a significant role in evolving cardiac care in the years ahead.

Remote monitoring is an effective and accurate tool for monitoring the heart health of patients with disease conditions such as arrhythmias or abnormal heartbeats and heart failure. It can be used by patients who have undergone a device implantation such as a pacemaker. The remote monitoring technology makes it possible for information to be transmitted from the patient’s implantable device directly to the doctor. This allows the doctor to comb through the patient’s heart activity and detect abnormalities, if any. The procedure involves the syncing of the transmitter with the pacemaker for collecting data on the heart’s rate and rhythm. The device then transmits this information through a secured website to the doctor. This syncing and transmission can happen 24 x 7, even as one is asleep. It also enables the doctor aware of a patient's medical history to offer the best medical advice, remotely.

Remote monitoring of heart health can vastly improve medical care for some cardiovascular patients

There's a lot that heart attack survivors can also learn to lower their chance of a future stroke. Image: Harvard Health

Remote monitoring – benefits & relevance 

The biggest single benefit that remote monitoring offers is the flexibility (for both patient and doctor) to seek and offer medical consultation from anywhere at any time of day. For doctors, it equips them with accurate data for correct diagnosis and treatment while reducing the amount of time taken to detect irregularities in heart rhythm. For patients, the technology provides them with the safety of communicating critical information about their medical condition directly to the doctor at any time of the day from the comfort of their home, digitally. Moreover, patients using remote monitoring devices have a higher chance of survival since they are being monitored regularly.

Using remote monitoring, doctors can monitor heart rate and rhythm in patients with common heart conditions like arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) or heart failure. Those suffering from these heart conditions usually undergo implantation of devices such as ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) or CRT-D (cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator) to manage their condition. The information gathered by a remote monitoring device is transmitted to the treating doctor (cardiac electrophysiologist), enabling them to review the patient’s heart activity and condition of the device. The process involves syncing of the transmitter with the implanted device for collecting data on the heart’s rate and rhythm. The transmitter then transmits this information through a secured website and server to the doctor, who has the medical history of the patient and is armed to provide the best medical advice for the patient in real-time and remotely.

Newer generation devices use a technology that have inbuilt capability to send the device data to the patient’s smartphone via Bluetooth and the phone then automatically transfers the data to the doctor enabling advanced remote monitoring capability. With this, the patient does not need to carry the transmitter while travelling and is always connected through their device and smartphone with their doctor. In situations like the ongoing pandemic, where travel across the cities and states to visit the treating doctor is almost impossible or undesirable, these technologies have been a boon to the patients who have these devices implanted.

Not a fix for everyone

Remote monitoring care platforms help clinicians monitor their patients round the clock, but also helps them take any urgent action needed, in case of an emergency. Patients with long-term issues like blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes can also be assisted by remote heart monitoring devices. These devices successfully help in detecting arrhythmias, irregular heartbeats and are recommended for patients with pacemakers and a history of CVD. Patients experiencing symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, bloating, and chest pains are most likely to benefit from the technology.

Digitally-empowered healthcare is the need of the hour, and remote care platforms provide patients with the convenience of accessing qualitative and quantitative healthcare from their homes. For patients with existing heart conditions like heart failure or cardiac arrhythmia, monitoring plays a very crucial role. New-age technologies like remote monitoring can go a long way in ensuring patients are on top of their heart health and that their doctor is up-to-date on their condition at any given time.

According to the data published in the European Heart Journal, remote monitoring results in more than 65 percent reduction in hospitalization and nearly 80 percent reduction in the time taken to detect abnormalities and initiate timely action. Patients with remote monitoring devices have a probability of survival that is nearly two and a half times greater than those without it. It provides them with the comfort, flexibility and security of communicating critical information in a secured manner to the doctor directly at any time of the day, without seeing them in-person. Remote monitoring also enables patients to enjoy a better quality of life by providing them the freedom and discretion to go anywhere, anytime.

The author is the Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology & Pacing at Medanta Heart Institute, Gurugram.

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