Telemedicine improves mortality rates for heart failure patients

After finding no overall benefit for congestive heart failure patients using telemedicine, researchers of a Dutch and a German telehealth study, respectively, decided to dig a little deeper.

What they uncovered were several subsets of CHF patients who saw statistically significant benefits from telemedicine in terms of improved mortality rates and re-hospitalization rates. Both studies--"Telemedicine to Improve Heart Failure Mortality (TIM-HF)" and "Tailored Telemonitoring in Patients with Heart Failure (TEHAF)"--were presented at the international Heart Failure Congress in Sweden last weekend.

According to Josiane Boyne, lead researcher on the TEHAF study at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, newly diagnosed CHF patients accounted for a large portion of the positive outcomes recorded. Patients diagnosed within 18 months of starting the trial had "significant decrease" in re-hospitalization, possibly as much as 50 percent, compared to patients who had the disease longer than 18 months.

The theory: Newly diagnosed patients typically are more open to education and adjusting their lifestyle to prevent exacerbations, according to Boyne. Also, longer-term patients tend to develop more severe symptoms over time, making it harder to control the condition, even with aggressive interventions.

The TIM-HF study found that patients whose condition was relatively stable, hadn't had a history of major exacerbations, and weren't depressed tended to respond best to the telemedicine program, and showed a reduction in mortality and re-hospitalization.

Ultimately the findings need more in-depth study, Boyne says, to determine why these groups respond better to telemedicine than the average CHF patient.

To learn more:
- check out the European Society of Cardiology's press release
- read the full journal report