Patients at risk of developing severe symptoms of Covid have been successfully treated at an early stage through the use of a remote monitoring service, organized by the University of Edinburgh.
The small study, which allowed patients to record their symptoms by phone or through an app, helped clinicians identify participants with low oxygen levels.
Experts say this allowed them to be admitted to hospital before their condition deteriorated.
The service has been tested in two Scottish NHS councils and has since been rolled out to seven councils in Scotland with more to follow.
Most people with Covid-19 are able to manage symptoms on their own at home. However, some people can develop severe hypoxia – when body tissues are deprived of sufficient oxygen supply – and require hospitalization.
The elderly, people with underlying health conditions, certain ethnic minorities, and people with a high body mass index are known to be at increased risk of deterioration.
Experts say early treatment is effective. The use of oxygen, steroids and new anti-inflammatory drugs, along with general supportive therapy, have been shown to reduce the death rate or shorten admissions.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Highland evaluated the use of a remote monitoring service that allowed people at high risk of deterioration to record their symptoms.
If updates suggested their condition was worsening, alerts were sent to the patient recommending that they seek advice or emergency care. Patients also had the option of managing their condition using detailed written instructions provided by a clinician.
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The research team followed the results of the first 116 patients who used the service. Of the 71 patients who submitted data, 35 received 151 alerts during their two weeks of observation.
Twenty-one of these patients were hospitalized, with an average stay of 3.7 days. That’s much shorter than the average stay for patients with Covid-19, but researchers say it may reflect the severity of cases rather than any direct effect of surveillance.
In addition to the seven boards that use the service, one uses it for maternity services. The service is available to all NHS boards across Scotland to adopt under a nationally funded contract.
Brian McKinstry, Emeritus Professor of Online Primary Health Care at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We know that early treatment of the deterioration of Covid-19 saves lives. This research confirms the findings of several other similar international studies that telemonitoring has the potential to reassure patients that they can safely monitor themselves at home and that deterioration in their condition will be detected early and can be detected. processed in a timely manner.
The study was funded by the Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care Program. It is published in the Journal of Formative Research.