COVID-19: Technology Helps Cardiologists Track Vital Health Information Remotely

Northwestern Medicine
Cardiology March 31, 2020
Attribute to: Michelle Montpetit, MD, heart failure specialist, Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Central DuPage Hospital, Delnor Hospital and Kishwaukee Hospital; and Anjan Tibrewala, MD, heart failure specialist, Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Central DuPage Hospital.

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Patients with underlying health conditions are encouraged to stay at home to reduce risk of COVID-19. How are you monitoring patients with heart failure?

MM: Telephone visits are remarkably helpful. I was skeptical, to be honest. The patients are asked to take their vitals (heart rate and blood pressure) and weight at home prior to our ‘visit’. The patients are empowered. They are on their own turf, so their blood pressures are often better than they are in the office!

Of course, without standard equipment, we are not sure this information is accurate, and some patients are unable to afford the equipment. Some standardization of equipment and payment by insurance companies would be helpful for equipment such as blood pressure devices (which also measure heart rate), ECG monitoring, and pulse oximetry monitors.

AT: Overall, telehealth visits have been an effective way to care for heart failure patients while minimizing possible infectious exposures to patients and providers during these challenging times. Patients should have their vital signs and medications available for a telehealth visit.

Have you found smart watch technology to be helpful?

MM: Measuring the heart rhythm has been my greatest barrier in the past week of telephone visits. The latest models of smart watches and applications for smart phones can be helpful for monitoring at home and I recommend them for patients with heart rhythm disorders.

Are there other types of technology available to help you remotely monitor patients?

MM: The CardioMEMS™ HF system enables us to remotely measure the amount of fluid in a patient’s lungs due to heart failure through a monitor implanted in the pulmonary artery. We can look at this information daily and make adjustments to medications based on this data to improve breathing.

Will this pandemic change care of heart failure patients in the future?

AT: I think telehealth will continue to be an integral component of healthcare delivery even after the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to subjective information, heart failure e-visits can include blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry, rhythm monitoring and pulmonary artery pressure monitoring. As our expertise in machine learning and artificial intelligence improves, we will become even better equipped in handling and processing this data.

I agree that insurance reimbursements, standardization of equipment, and patient/provider adoption of the technology will be challenges going forward. 

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