Telemedicine call center helps reduce cardiac readmissions

Telemedicine helped reduce the rate of readmissions among patients after hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), according to new research published this month in Telemedicine and e-Health.

The study looked at 30-day readmission rates among 897 patients who subscribed to a telemedicine call center post-discharge. The call center kept the patient record on file, including an electronically stored electrocardiogram [ECG]. Patients carried a cardio-beeper capable of transmitting a ECG by phone for comparison. The attending nurse had the option to dispatching a mobile intensive care unit staffed with a doctor or to make other recommendations while consulting with the physician on call.

The study patients made 3,318 calls to the telemedicine center. The mobile unit was dispatched for 158 patients, 64 were transported to the hospital and 52 were re-admitted. The 30-day post-AMI readmission rate of 5.8 percent compared with about a 20 percent readmission rate in the community.

Telemedicine has shown many benefits in the care of chronic diseases, according to a previous Telemedicine and e-Health article focused on three chronic diseases: congestive heart failure, stroke and obstructive pulmonary disease, though it stressed each requires its own approach.

The authors of the more recent study credited the system with evaluating patients early and efficiently and managing their conditions appropriately.

"Our records show that all the others who were telephonically advised on which steps to take at home or who were treated at home by the mobile unit's medical staff were safely spared unnecessary readmissions," the authors said, adding that without the call center, more patients likely would have gone to the emergency room and undergone a battery of tests. They noted than 67 percent of those readmitted had problems eventually determined to be of non-cardiac origins.

Yulun Wang, Ph.D., president of the American Telemedicine Association Board of Directors, recently called telemedicine a "cornerstone solution" to meeting the goals of the Triple Aim.

To learn more:
- read the research (.pdf)