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24/7 intelligent monitoring for heart patients


Within a year a group of Spanish researchers are planning to market a remote cardiac monitoring system that has the potential to revolutionise healthcare for people with heart problems, granting them greater independence, peace of mind and quality of life.

The system, developed over two years by the IST programme project CardioSmart, will allow patients to “have a doctor by their side 24 hours a day” whether they are at home, in the street or even in another country, according to scientific coordinator José Manuel Quero at the University of Seville Engineering School in Spain.

Using GPRS wireless technology and a small personal terminal connected to cardiac sensors, the CardioSmart system continuously monitors a patient’s heart rate and will automatically alert their doctor in the event of a problem, while the incorporation of GPS information allows emergency services to locate the patient.

“Unlike the monitoring systems that exist to date, which generally make the patient responsible for providing information either locally or remotely, Cardiosmart is intelligent and automatic to allow continuous monitoring of a patient’s heart condition,” explains Quero. “In most cases the doctor will know before the patient if a change in heart rate or some other abnormality occurs.”

For patients the system offers peace of mind and increased independence, avoiding the need for them to visit their doctor on a regular basis or remain hospitalised. It is also cost-effective, promising potentially large savings for Europe’s public health systems.

“When we launched the project a couple of years ago we estimated that equipping a patient with the system would cost around 40 euros per day. Now, however, we believe it would cost less than half due to the falling price of the technology,” Quero says. “That compares, for example, to keeping a patient in a hospital, which in Spain costs around 180 euros per day on average.”

The stability and performance of the technology was validated in tests last year, with the coordinator wearing the personal terminal when he attended meetings across Europe. “Even I was surprised when I turned the terminal on in Britain, France or Germany and within 20 seconds my heart beat was showing up on a computer at our centre in Seville,” he says.

In order to bring a commercial product to market, the project partners are planning clinical trials this year to ensure the system complies with European healthcare legislation. They are also looking to begin negotiations with a mobile service provider.

Tara Morris | alfa
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