As part of National Heart Month this February, we’re looking at how remote monitoring solutions, like telehealth, can help patients across the UK better manage long-term heart conditions such as coronary heart disease, chronic heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is the story of Len, a Swindon resident, who has been using telehealth since 2010.
Len is 62, and in 2001 he contracted a virus which left him with cardiomyopathy. As a result, his heart swelled to twice its normal size, and Len was admitted to the Great Western Hospital no less than 143 times in nine years; more than once a month. The approximate overall cost of these admissions was £357,500. Len has had a pacemaker fitted as well as an internal defibrillator as his heart regularly goes out of rhythm. Len’s condition means he retains excess fluid in his body, which has to be regularly managed to avoid further loss of heart function and overall physical condition.
To help manage Len’s fluid overload, he visits SEQOL’s Swindon Intermediate Care Centre (SWICC) for three days as a day case when intravenous diuretics are required to reduce the excess fluid from his body. In 2010 the SEQOL team provided Len with a telehealth system to monitor his symptoms at home, in particular his blood pressure, which is often low, and his weight, an increase in which is an indicator that he is retaining fluid. Len usually takes his readings in the morning, but may take them several times a day depending on his symptoms and his Community Matron responds to the red alerts which are being read by the team.
Telehealth has enabled Len to become much more knowledgeable about his condition, and better able to manage it. If his weight increases he can take additional diuretics in accordance with his self-management plan, and he knows the signs when his renal function is good or bad. Use of the system has also helped Len to reduce his weight to the point where he has recently been deemed clinically fit to go onto the heart transplant waiting list.
Since telehealth has helped the Community Matron to stabilise Len’s condition, he has had no unplanned admissions to hospital. The cost of his care has also significantly reduced since 2010 with only planned day case management and more recently Len has not required day case management for over 4 months. The self-management and clinical management plans alongside telehealth have achieved individual management, stabilisation and improved quality of life for Len and his wife.
Len said: “Telehealth is tremendous. I now feel in control of my condition, I can see the information and make changes to meds and things to make sure I keep well. Since I’ve had telehealth I haven’t been admitted to hospital as an emergency at all, just for routine appointments, and it’s helped me to manage my weight to the point where I can go on the transplant list.”
Jackie, Len’s wife and carer said: “We used to have a bag permanently packed ready to go off to hospital at short notice. We were so worried all the time, and I used to need a lot of time off work. The system means we understand much more of what’s going on and can manage things at home rather than calling for an ambulance.
Since the SEQOL team provided Len with telehealth, the recurrent cost savings to the NHS is £250,000 per year.
National Heart Month raises awareness for one of the UK’s biggest killers – cardiovascular disease – every February.
Find out more about British Heart Foundation