Brussels, 05 Aug 2003
Doctors and patients alike will be heartened by the news that a recently completed EU project has developed a diagnostic device which will improve treatment for chronic diseases and put an end to overcrowded waiting rooms.
The DOC@HOME project was funded under the information society technologies (IST) section of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). With a budget of 1.79 million euro, consortium partners from Estonia, Sweden, Latvia and the UK devised a system specifically targeting patients with chronic illnesses who need regular health check-ups to ensure the treatment they have been prescribed is working effectively.
As Ardo Reinsalu, one of the project partners explained, the system could not be easier to use: 'The unit has special electrodes and to take measurements, all patients have to do is to hold the unit,' he said.
The diagnostic device then measures ECG and other cardiac parameters and patients can also input additional data manually, such as their weight or blood pressure, measurements of which can easily be taken at home. Once the data is collected, it is sent back to the doctor automatically, and weekly and monthly reports are sent out to patients and doctors.
'Patients participating in their own healthcare in this way find the feedback very supportive and are better motivated to follow the treatment conscientiously,' claimed Mr Reinsalu.
Indeed preliminary results from the pilot trial have confirmed the effectiveness of the system in motivating patients to take control. Furthermore, the system has also helped spot ineffective treatment so that corrective action can be taken. 'Fifty patients took part in the trials over a two year period. They all had pre-existing heart conditions. After using the data collection units for only three weeks, doctors realised that, in many cases, the treatment was not very effective. As a direct result of these observations, patients' treatment was changed in 80 per cent of cases,' explained Mr Reinsalu.
After four months of the pilot trials, Mr Reinsalu said that the device succeeded in reducing the average blood pressure of the group by two millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). 'This is very significant. A two per cent decrease in blood pressure leads to a reduction of 50 per cent in the risk of heart attack. This leads, in turn, to an improvement in patients' quality of life and reduced demand for expensive medical facilities,' he added.
The diagnostic device is in the process of being commercialised, and project partners are currently in contact with diagnostic manufacturers to explore the possibility of incorporating wireless links so that readings can be input automatically.
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