Singapore hospital pilots telehealth for heart patients

Changi General Hospital launches the country's first tele-heath initiative for heart failure patients, providing them with devices to monitor their health and remotely send the data to healthcare service providers.

A Singapore hospital is piloting the country's first telehealth initiative targeted at heart failure patients that encompasses the use of devices to monitor their health. 

Changi General Hospital (CGH), with the help of healthcare services providers Eastern Health Alliance and Philips Healthcare , said it was rolling out the programme with the aim to provide tele-monitoring, tele-education, and tele-care support. In a joint statement released Thursday, the three partners said the pilot had commenced in June and they are looking to enrol some 160 heart failure patients by October 2015. The programme is aimed at encouraging these patients to take better care of their health and reduce the risk of hospitalization as well as premature death.

According to CGH, about 40 percent of heart failure patients have to be re-admitted to hospital within a 12-month period, primarily because they do not follow treatment plans. For instance, these patients often fail to take their medication correctly or as required. They also do not monitor their weight daily and neglect to watch their water intake and diet.

Dr Gerard Leong, programme director and senior consultant of the hospital's cardiology department, said in the statement: "Education and monitoring are key components for success. Once heart failure patients understand and feel more supported and confident about how to manage their conditions, they are more likely to follow their treatment plan and make the needed lifestyle changes.

"In essence, this is what we aim to do with this telehealth programme," he said.

Singapore-based Eastern Health Alliance Group CEO T.K Udairam noted: "Simply put, we are bringing care to patients' homes and providing the convenience for them to easily monitor themselves as part of their daily routine, and to provide information and assistance when they need it." The organization is the designated regional health system for Singapore residents living in the eastern part of the island, which is also where CGH is located. 

The three partners developed and localized the programme for the Singapore population, which included customized programme protocols, and will be making the content available in English, Mandarin, and Malay.

Patients who are participating in the initiatives will be provided with a personal health tablet, weighing machine, and blood pressure monitor. These are meant to help patients measure their weight, pulse, and blood pressure on a daily basis, monitoring three critical areas for heart failure patients. The data will then be automatically uploaded to a central system for monitoring.

Video clips will also be sent remotely and can be viewed on the patient's tablet to educate him on related healthcare information. "Nurse telecarers" from Eastern Health Alliance will support and monitor patients' data , and can intervene when they detect signs of deterioration.