Sending heart-rate data online
Doctors to learn of heart problems through text messages
By Kristina Yelskaya
Ten years ago, mobile phones were a rarity; now, some can’t live without them. We make appointments and meetings, exchange information and share experiences with their help. Soon, we could even use them to ensure our good health, sending SMS texts of electrocardiograms, blood pressure and pulse rates. One mobile operator is offering the service to allow the monitoring of patients from a distance.
The Mobile Health system is being tested by the Republican Scientific Practical Centre for Cardiology. Each kit includes a tonometer, a pulse oximeter, a device for receiving an electrocardiogram and a transmitting device with a SIM-card. Blood pressure and heart rate can be measured in real time, sending data via Bluetooth to a mobile communication device. This automatically sends the data through the mobile network to a control room monitoring patients or to a specialist with access to a web interface.
The technology is being tested for two months before being assessed by the Ministry of Health; it’s too early to speak of results but great hopes are being pinned on the innovation, explains Larisa Plashchinskaya, of the Cardiac Rhythm Disturbance Laboratory at RSPC Cardiology. She tells us, “First of all, patients can monitor their vital signs themselves and see the effect of their treatment. Secondly, if their health deteriorates and hospitalisation is necessary, the system can send readings automatically or at the will of the patient, ensuring timely medical care. The number of strokes and heart attacks should fall.”
The new technology will allow medical staff to monitor patients’ state of health remotely, reducing their duration of stay in hospital and the load on consulting physicians and nursing staff. These short-term benefits are supplemented by long term advantages regarding patient care, with resulting savings to the health service. Naturally, the system is also convenient for patients, who can return to normal life — even travelling abroad. Internet roaming can be used to send back data, with the kit packed in a small bag.
Ms. Plashchinskaya emphasises, “Telemedicine is in its infancy in Belarus but our initiative highlights again the necessity of modern ICT not only for the provision of communication services but for health care development. Technology is being used to improve quality of life.”