Background: There is growing evidence that home telemonitoring can be advantageous in societies with increasing prevalence of chronic diseases.The main objective of this study is to evaluate the effect of a primary care-based telemonitoring intervention on the number and length of hospital admissions.
Methods: A randomised controlled trial was carried out across 20 health centres in Bilbao (Basque Country, Spain) to assess the impact of home telemonitoring on in-home chronic patients compared with standard care. The study lasted for one year. Fifty-eight in-home patients, diagnosed with heart failure (HF) and/or chronic lung disease (CLD), aged 14 or above and with two or more hospital admissions in the previous year were recruited. The intervention consisted of daily patient self-measurements of respiratory-rate, heart-rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, weight, body temperature and the completion of a health status questionnaire using PDAs. Alerts were generated when pre-established thresholds were crossed. The control group (CG) received usual care. The primary outcome measure was the number of hospital admissions that occurred at 12 months post-randomisation. The impact of telemonitoring on the length of hospital stay, use of other healthcare resources and mortality was also explored.
Results: The intervention group (IG) included 28 patients and the CG 30. Patient baseline characteristics were similar in both groups. Of the 21 intervention patients followed-up for a year, 12 had some admissions (57.1%), compared to 19 of 22 controls (86.4%), being the difference statistically significant (p = 0.033, RR 0.66; 95%CI 0.44 to 0.99). The mean hospital stay was overall 9 days (SD 4.3) in the IG versus 10.7 (SD 11.2) among controls, and for cause-specific admissions 9 (SD 4.5) vs. 11.2 (SD 11.8) days, both without statistical significance (p = 0.891 and 0.927, respectively). Four patients need to be telemonitored for a year to prevent one admission (NNT). There were more telephone contacts in the IG than in the CG (22.6 -SD 16.1- vs. 8.6 -SD 7.2-, p = 0.001), but fewer home nursing visits (15.3 -SD 11.6- vs. 25.4 -SD 26.3-, respectively), though the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.3603).
Conclusions: This study shows that telemonitoring of in-home patients with HF and/or CLD notably increases the percentage of patients with no hospital admissions and indicates a trend to reduce total and cause-specific hospitalisations and hospital stay. Home telemonitoring can constitute a beneficial alternative mode of healthcare provision for medically unstable elderly patients.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN89041993.