Health data shared by progress report

Monitoring with digital personal health record

Higher quality of life, lower costs

Only a few patients already share health data electronically with their doctor. A research group directed by the Kantonsspital St. Gallen hospital is currently examining how simple and useful such an exchange can be.

Text: Roger Welti, images: Keystone, 

Brigitte Schneider finds the weather discomforting today. The woman from eastern Switzerland suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD – like around 400,000 other people in this country. On certain days she has difficulty breathing and physical exertion is almost impossible, Schneider explains. Medications can indeed alleviate the symptoms of COPD, however the disease itself cannot be cured. That’s why it’s so important to improve the quality of life for sufferers as much as possible – for instance, so that an acute deterioration of health does not involve a stay in hospital.

Digitalisation enables innovative approach

“I am convinced that the use of telemedicine can succeed in doing exactly that”, says Dr Frank Rassouli, senior doctor in Pneumology at Kantonsspital St. Gallen. Currently, five Swiss and one German clinic are undertaking a study with up to 250 participants under his direction. The electronic personal health record Evita is being used during the study for monitoring the condition of COPD patients. Brigitte Schneider is also taking part: “I didn’t have to consider whether I would take part in the study for very long. There are only benefits – for me and for other COPD patients.”

She and the other study participants answer questions about their state of health every day in the Evita record. All the information is collected in real time by the participating hospitals. If a patient shows worrying values, he or she is immediately contacted by the study team. The doctor treating them asks additional questions about their condition and gives advice over the phone. The goal: The affected patient is treated quickly and, if possible, at home. Emergency hospital stays are thus prevented – with positive effects on patients’ quality of life and the costs for society. “Every avoided emergency admission saves the healthcare sector several thousand francs”, explains Rassouli, the director of the study.

Evita: Not just for patients

The personal health record Evita is not only suitable for telemedical uses. It supports people in managing all their health information in general. Whether while travelling, during a doctor’s consultation or in an emergency: With Evita, all important medical information can be accessed online and can be shared with your relatives, friends or a doctor. Evita users personally and individually assign the corresponding access rights. All data in Evita are securely transmitted and stored in encrypted form.

Questionnaire for COPD patients in Evita

More security and knowledge

In order to ensure that the electronic personal health record is also as easy to use as possible for older COPD patients, Evita has been specifically adapted to the needs of the study and its participants. With success. “The daily use of the online questionnaire is easy and quickly becomes routine”, says Brigitte Schneider. “The close communication with the team of doctors gives me security and increases my quality of life.”

The doctors taking part are also convinced by the electronic personal health record. “Our patients value the simple and in depth contact with us via Evita”, says Frank Rassouli. He has also noticed a valuable side effect: “The daily analysis of their disease increases patients’ own expertise and knowledge about COPD.” Specialists are convinced that encouraging self-responsibility and increasing patients’ own health knowledge have a positive effect on the course of the disease.

Study director Frank Rassouli

Further participants wanted

Additional affected persons will be integrated into the study until the end of 2017. Every patient participates in the study for a year. For the first six months, they are taken care of with today’s usual care practices without telemedical monitoring. During the remaining six months, the electronic personal health record is used. The findings from all participants will be evaluated at the end of 2018. If the telemedical monitoring demonstrably results in more quality of life for COPD patients and fewer emergency hospital admissions, an expansion of the use of Evita is planned for such purposes.

Six clinics on board

A total of six clinics are taking part in the ground-breaking telemedicine study with COPD patients:

  • Clinic for Pneumology/Sleep Medicine at Kantonsspital St. Gallen (study director)
  • University Hospital of Basel
  • University Hospital of Zurich
  • Kantonsspital Münsterlingen
  • Kantonsspital Glarus
  • Fachkliniken Wangen im Allgäu

Further participants are sought in all regions. You will find information on the study here.

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