New telehealth programme to help heart failure patients stay out of hospitals

SINGAPORE - Heart failure patients may soon spend more time out of hospital and more time recovering at home with a new telehealth programme that is being piloted.

The Eastern Health Alliance (EH Alliance), of which Changi General Hospital is a founding member, is currently testing the new programme with five patients.

Each patient is given a personal health tablet, a weighing machine and a blood pressure monitor, which they must use daily. Each time they measure their weight, blood pressure and pulse, the readings are uploaded automatically to a central system via a 3G network, which is monitored by nurses.

The programme is expected to also help hospitals boost productivity and lower costs, given the high re-admission rate of heart failure patients. Heart failure patients are frequently re-admitted to hospital as they often fail to take their medication consistently or fail to watch their diety and fluid intake.

At CGH, for instance, one in four heart failure patients is back in hospital within 12 months.

"Once heart failure patients understand and feel more supported and confident about how to manage their conditions, they are more likely to follow their treatment plan and make the needed lifestyle changes," said CGH senior consultant in cardiology Dr Gerard Leong.

About 6,000 people suffer from heart failure in Singapore. CGH alone saw around 600 patients last year, up from just 350 in 2007.

The programme, which was launched on Thursday with healthcare solutions provider Philips Healthcare, aims to enrol 150 patients by next October.