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North west cardiac telemedicine pilot could save up to £46 million per year

Broomwell Healthwatch : 28 May, 2007  (New Product)
A cardiac telemedicine service pilot project in Cumbria and Lancashire has shown the potential to save up to 90,000 A & E visits, 45,000 hospital admissions and hundreds of lives each year in England.
The six month pilot's results also estimated the minimum savings to the NHS from use of telemedical ECG tests at 46 million per year, simply by cutting unnecessary hospital admissions and A & E visits for symptoms of chest pain.

The advanced cardiac telemedicine solutions from Manchester based BroomWell Healthwatch proved an outstanding success in the pilot, which involved 15 GP practices and two NHS walk-in centres in the North West.

Broomwell's advanced pocket sized ECG devices and specialised cardiac monitoring centre support GPs in making diagnoses for their patients, in minutes.

Data from the pilot showed 82 percent of patients receiving ECGs did not need to go to hospital (neither A & E nor outpatients) following the test - giving rapid reassurance, and reducing stress and anxiety.

The results of the pilot showed that access to ECG tests through this technology can save hundreds of lives each year by early detection of heart problems.

Such early detection is proven in helping to avoid irreversible heart damage.

A further benefit is that patients can be accurately diagnosed within local healthcare settings instead of having to travel to a hospital for testing.

Joe Rafferty, NHS North West director of commissioning and performance said: 'The pilot has been a resounding success, and it clearly shows the benefits of using telemedicine to bring essential health services closer to patients'.

'The response from GPs, NHS staff and patients alike has been overwhelmingly positive, and the cost savings and benefits to patients speak for themselves.

A Lancashire GP involved in the pilot commented: 'It is a quick and accurate way of making a diagnosis.

'It is more convenient for the patients, as they're dealing with people that they know and trust, rather than somebody anonymous at the hospital.

'They are often less stressed and anxious about coming to the surgery rather than going to the hospital.

'I believe it can make a huge difference to the quality of care we offer'.

Roger Boyle, the National Director for Heart Disease, Department of Health (heart tzar) said: 'When you need an ECG to diagnose a problem with the heart rhythm or the cause of a pain in the chest, you need it there and then'.

'You also need somebody to interpret it accurately.

'But in rural areas like parts of Cumbria and Lancashire, access to expert interpretation is not always immediately available.

'This pilot has helped to demonstrate not only the benefits to patients - accessing care in the local community and preventing unnecessary trips to hospital - but also the potential financial benefits to the NHS.

'Cardiac Telemedicine is an excellent way to ensure that expert advice is available in a matter of minutes, not only to the patient but also to the healthcare professionals involved with the care'.

Broomwell Healthwatch believes the savings to the NHS from using telemedicine ECGs on a wider scale would be around 250 million per year.

This includes cutting down outpatient appointments and waiting times, as GPs would not need to refer their patients for an ECG.

The same telemedicine equipment can also be used to monitor a range of other conditions including arrhythmia, heart failure, congestive heart disease, and COPD.

An evaluation of these is now underway and will be published in the future.

An example of the service in action was a Lancashire man, aged 87, who came to one of the pilot's walk-in centres complaining of chest pain, which he said he had felt for two to three hours.

As he was clinically stable, the nurse took an ECG using the Broomwell service, and in 10 minutes received a report that the patient's heart-rate was abnormal.

An urgent ambulance was arranged and the patient immediately transferred to hospital along with his abnormal ECG report.

This process speeded up both his care and medical journey, and avoided him having to go to A & E and wait for a diagnosis.

The BroomWell Healthwatch telemedicine ECG service gives GPs and other healthcare 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 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 email 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.
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