Heart failure affects more than six million adults in the United States alone and an estimated 64.3 million people worldwide. While the name might imply that it’s something more akin to a heart attack, heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart cannot adequately pump blood throughout the body, at least not to the standard it should.
There are many symptoms of heart failure, including shortness of breath; fatigue; weakness; swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet; and heart arrhythmia. It is often unavoidable in the case of genetics, upbringing, or other conditions you may have.
While many of the effects of heart failure may be irreversible, there are still many ways that you can treat the symptoms and manage a healthy life with heart failure. Thousands of patients are hospitalized because of this condition, but remote monitoring may help bring those numbers down. Let’s find out if remote monitoring can help doctors better treat heart failure.
Defining Remote Monitoring
In healthcare, we use the term Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), which is a method of delivering healthcare using technology to gather information about patients beyond the traditional means, such as going to an appointment.
For many healthcare professionals, remote patient monitoring is about moving away from the traditional setting of healthcare and moving towards bringing it into your personal lives. This means bringing it into your home, workplace, or school, and there are a few advantages to this.
The Main Advantage of Remote Monitoring
In a later section, we’ll go into more detail about the advantages of RPM in relation to cardiology. Generally, the main advantage of remotely monitoring a patient is to increase engagement between the healthcare specialist and the patient.
This leads to improved care from both ends of this engagement, as patients are incentivized to be more aware of their health on a day-to-day basis. At the same time, doctors will be far better equipped to handle your healthcare, as they will be supplied with a constant stream of information detailing your day-to-day health.
The true beauty of this system is that once it has been set up, it can be done from the comfort of your home. It’s both convenient and efficient and takes a lot of the stress away from both healthcare providers and friends and family because there is peace of mind knowing that there is constant monitoring of one’s health condition.
How Does Remote Patient Monitoring Work?
To understand how remote monitoring can help treat heart failure, we’ll have to dig a little deeper and explain more about how remote patient monitoring works.
In a broad sense, remote patient monitoring comes down to using technology to communicate between the doctor and the patient. The patient is responsible for going about their lives and collecting data about their health throughout the day, which they will send to their healthcare provider.
The healthcare provider then processes all this data and will give advice and recommendations to the patient based on their findings. This process allows for more accurate treatment of conditions, such as cardiac failure, and assessment of the progress of said conditions.
Data is collected in various ways, and this process varies based on the condition itself and the information that the doctor requires. In our case, as we are looking particularly at the heart and heart failure, much of the data collected revolves around the symptoms of heart failure.
What Data Is Collected When Monitoring Cardiac Failure?
Because of the many different ways in which heart failure can emerge in any one person, there are multiple ways that data can be collected using different devices. In this section, we’ll cover a few of the more common ones that pertain to assessing heart failure.
A simple and easy-to-use blood pressure monitor can help assess the flow of blood. By slipping it over your arm and squeezing it, you can calculate your heart rate and blood flow by measuring how your artery behaves as the monitor deflates. If your heart cannot pump blood as well as it should, you should notice a change in blood pressure.
Electrocardiography devices come in many forms, but they are all used for the same thing. These devices will pick up on some of the symptoms of heart failure, such as a common arrhythmia. They can be invaluable in detecting the early warning signs of significant problems.
A heart rate monitor can help accomplish the same goal but will give you a different set of statistics that can help you compare your heart’s performance throughout the day.
Pulse oximeters are another common and easy-to-use device that will help measure your blood’s oxygen levels. If you or anyone in your family suffer from chronic heart problems, you’ll likely be familiar with them already. You may also know them from the world of sports, as athletes often use them while training to monitor their fitness.
The last device we’ll mention is the smart scale. One of the more easily noticeable symptoms of heart failure is sudden weight gain or weight loss. Gaining two or three pounds out of the blue can be a sign of water retention, which is one of the giveaways that your heart failure is acting up.
Does Remote Monitoring Actually Pose a Benefit for Treating Cardiac Failure?
To finally answer the main question, we’ll have to look at what we’ve already covered and see how it has fared in practical use.
Unfortunately, not too much has been done to use remote monitoring for treating heart failure. It’s still a relatively new idea that is being put into practice, so the full benefits are only now being felt. However, from what we have gathered by describing the advantages and uses of remote monitoring, you can assume that it is very useful for helping these patients.
According to a RESULT trial presented at the EHRA in 2019, it was found that remotely monitoring defibrillator implants in patients leads to much quicker treatment in response to issues and dramatically reduces the number of people needing to be hospitalized as a result.
However, it was also noted that remote monitoring is not a method of treatment that will have immediate results right from the get-go, as it is an ongoing process of having to receive data, process it, and then make contact as needed. Thus, it can take some time to reach a point of efficiency and effectiveness.
Using remote monitoring to stay on top of one’s heart health is a promising and worthwhile endeavor, given its success in other healthcare fields. While it may take some time to establish routines and get the right amount of data required to make accurate decisions based on the information needed to be processed, it can prove worthwhile if the speed of response is enough to save a life.