Palm pilots that transmit a patient’s daily breathing stats and forewarn of impending attacks are keeping people out of the hospital and improving their quality of life.
Temple University Hospital patient Edward Goldwire, 55, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and used to live every day in fear of catching his next breath. At least three times a year an exacerbation would strike, leaving him to wonder if help would even arrive. Plus, with each major attack would come the stress of a lengthy hospital stay while his body recovered.
When Temple Lung Center’s Dr. Wissam Chatila first informed Goldwire of a new study that recorded daily COPD symptoms with a PDA, he was skeptical. “How are they going to really know when I’m sick?” he said.
But a year later, Goldwire is amazed at the turn his disease has taken. He can walk for longer distances and longer periods of time. His attacks and need to go to the hospital have decreased. Goldwire stays in touch electronically with his health care team. Every day, rain or shine, holidays included, Goldwire reports his symptoms.
The data goes directly to the Temple Lung Center where it’s analyzed by a pulmonary nurse specialist and board certified pulmonary physician with a special interest in COPD research. Any red flags spring the team into action. As the fourth-largest killer in the United States, in 2000 alone, COPD resulted in 1.5 million emergency room visits, 726,000 hospitalizations and 119,000 deaths.
The long sought after goal of improving health through a partnership between doctor and patient where distance, economic status and mobility no longer matter may be drawing closer thanks to advances in telemedicine.
According to interim results of a $4 million Department of Health study headed by Dr. Alfred Bove, chief of cardiology at Temple University Hospital, low-income patients with treatable cardiac risk factors may benefit from regular visits with an Internet-based telemedicine doctor.
Designed to help bridge what Bove terms the “medical divide” between treatment and outcomes for upper- and lower-income patients, the study results show that inner-city and rural patients who used the telemedicine system significantly reduced their cardiovascular disease risk factors over a period of eight months. Telemedicine participants regularly transmitted their blood pressure, weight and step data to cardiologists and, in return, received feedback and educational information via the Internet.
The telemedicine participants showed “significant reductions” in blood pressure, body mass index and overall risk of heart disease, while the control group achieved only a meaningful drop in systolic blood pressure.