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Telemedical ECG monitors help cut the cost of diagnosing cardiac problems in North Sea oil workers

Broomwell Healthwatch : 24 June, 2008  (Application Story)
Abermed, medical services provider to the North Sea oil and gas industry, has deployed a telemedical ECG service from Broomwell Healthwatch to 20 rigs across the North Sea to help offshore medics diagnose coronary blood clots and correctly administer medication to treat the problem on-site as part of the company’s 24/7 offshore emergency service cover.
Dr Euan Thompson, medical director for Abermed, said: “The telemedical ECG service has been an invaluable aid to our rig medics and has allowed us to set up a service for our clients which provides their employees with timely and preventative cardiac care, helping to save lives”.

“A key benefit of the service is the time frame within which preventative action can be taken. The rig workers are in close proximity to the rig medics, so if needs be a diagnosis can be made and medication can be administered within just 30 minutes and all without having to take the patient onshore to hospital. This not only cuts costs, but more importantly saves time, ensuring the patient receives optimal care”.

Prior to the deployment patients with chest-pain symptoms were either transported onshore for diagnosis and treatment or were tested on-site with a traditional ECG machine. However this method relied heavily on data being sent to a coronary unit for analysis and the data quality was inferior to that generated by the telemedical ECG; this method was also much more costly.

Abermed staff has found the handheld ECG device easy to use and training takes minimal time. The units have also been customised to accommodate the oil and gas rigs’ requirements; with no phone signal available on some rigs Broomwell’s service has been tailored to operate via satellite or Internet transmissions, transmitting the ECG data via a JPEG image, as opposed to the standard acoustic transmission via the telephone.

Joshua Rowe, chief executive officer for Broomwell Healthwatch, said: “The Broomwell service provides non-specialist medics with expert cardiac diagnostic support. Our clinicians make an on-the-spot diagnosis, giving rig medics immediate and expert cardiac advice to support their clinical decisions. This improves outcomes and provides valuable reassurance for staff and patients.”

An example of the service in action is an offshore worker who came to see the offshore medic one Sunday morning with chest tightness. The medic took an ECG and transmitted it to Broomwell whilst at the same time contacting Abermed. Following the advice given by Broomwell, as there was no sign of myocardial infarction, (on that or subsequent ECGs) the decision was made to keep the patient on the installation. The patient made a full recovery and there was no need for evacuation. Had evacuation been required, not only would it risk the lives of the flight crew and medical attendant, it would have cost many thousands of pounds.

The telemedicine approach has been used successfully across a number of primary care bodies in the UK. In a major NHS pilot of the Broomwell technology, 16 percent of patients using the ECG telemedical service avoided referral to A and E and Admissions, demonstrating the potential to save 90,000 A and E visits and 45,000 hospital admissions.

Another major pilot by the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Cardiac Network indicates that, due to the use of the Broomwell service, 64 percent of patients avoided referrals to Outpatients. The two pilots translate to a cost saving of some 100,000,000 per annum. The service is now deployed across virtually all PCTs in Greater Manchester and in numerous PCTs across the country.
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