Hospital sends heart failure patients home with smartphones

Flagstaff [Ariz.] Medical Center is testing out a new smartphone/remote monitoring program to keep congestive heart failure patients out of the hospital.

The program, "Care Beyond Walls and Wires," is small--only about 50 patients, so far--but has some hefty contributors, including the National Institutes of Health, Qualcomm (which just launched a multi-pronged remote monitoring program/platform of its own last week), Verizon Wireless and Zephyr Technology. The vendor participants are donating their equipment, according to a Flagstaff statement this week, and NIH is helping the hospital organize and evaluate the program's effectiveness.

Patients will leave the hospital with a monitoring kit that includes a Motorola Droid X2 smartphone, a health app for transmitting patient data, an O2 and pulse monitor, BP cuff, and scale. Some, but not all, also will take home a Zephyr health monitoring unit that tracks breathing, temperature, mobility and other biometrics, according to hospital officials.

Patients will record and transmit data to FMC nurses daily for three to six months. Clinicians will monitor the data and regularly check to ensure that patient are taking their meds, following a dietary plan, and are aware of early signals of a CHF exacerbation.

One of the primary groups the project hopes to reach will be Native Americans living on rural reservations. According to hospital officials, many of these participants don't have landline phones, have access to limited electricity and have a hard time traveling to meet with physicians, making a remote connection to the hospital key to post-discharge follow up.

"This program will dramatically extend the delivery of healthcare by giving our CHF patients the tools to stay connected to a nurse at FMC, regardless of how close they are to the hospital," FMC president William Bradel said in a statement.

It's not quite clear whether some of the patient's vital signs and other data will automatically be transmitted to the hospital personnel. However, hospital officials do indicate that the core app, provided by Verizon, requires the patient to enter in much of the needed data. It will be interesting to see how patients comply with daily data entry and transmission requirements.

To learn more:
- read the FMC press release
- check out Health Data Management's summary