There are currently around 400,000 people in Switzerland who suffer from the chronic lung disease COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD narrows the airways and can lead to severe respiratory distress hence worsening the quality of life. Affected people must see their physician for regular medical check-ups.
The Department of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at the Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen has recently adopted new ways of reaching out to its target groups. It is testing the use of evita for monitoring the health state of COPD patients. Some 50 affected people are currently answering daily questions about their health at home on their mobile phone or tablet. They enter in their electronic evita health record, among other things, information on whether they cough more frequently on the day or breathe harder than usual.
The study team at the Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen collects all information in real time. If they detect that a patient shows worrying levels, he/she will immediately be contacted by the study team. They will ask the patient more questions about his/her condition and give advice over the phone. The aim of this new approach is that those affected are cared for at home quickly and at all times. This way emergency hospital stays could be avoided - for the benefit of patients and to avoid costs.
The pilot study, which examines the feasibility and patient acceptance, will run until the end of 2015 and will then be directly followed by an international intervention study to investigate whether COPD patients need to be hospitalised less frequently due to telemedicine/evita. MD Frank Rassouli, senior physician in Pulmonology at the Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen, says: "If home monitoring proves successful for those affected, and reduces the number hospitalisations by early diagnosis of acute deterioration, we would definitely consider extending the use of evita for such purposes."