Kiwi Polemicist

November 5, 2009

• A new way of monitoring heart failure

The NZ Herald has an interesting article about a new way of monitoring people who have congestive heart failure.

Basically a set of scales and a blood pressure monitor are wirelessly connected to a cellphone: that’s the Bluetooth mentioned in the article, which sends data between gadgets via radio waves. The cellphone then sends the data to the hospital each day. If people forget to take their readings the hospital is supposed to chase them up.

One of the symptoms of heart failure is fluid accumulation in the body. People are supposed to weigh themselves daily and phone the hospital if they gain more than 2 kg overnight. Of course people do forget to weigh themselves, and the hospital won’t know if they’ve forgotten. A sudden worsening of congestive heart failure often leads to hospitalisation and/or death, but close monitoring and a rapid response to problems reduces the likelihood of these outcomes. That’s why this system has people weighing themselves.

Most people with heart failure are elderly, and it will be necessary to make the gadgets user-friendly and reliable in order to overcome unfamiliarity with and resistance to technology. Those patients who aren’t able to manage this form of self-monitoring are likely to have carers who can do it for them.

No system is foolproof (at the patient end or the staff end), but this looks like a simple and effective way of improving the management this condition.




  1. Actually, you don’t need the bluetooth gadgetry. Just the simple expedient of getting the elderly to text or phone their readings through will do the same job – albeit not as efficiently, as there is the hassle of texting and the possibility of transcription error.

    Comment by MacDoctor — November 5, 2009 @ 8:04 am

    • Good point MacDoctor. I imagine that the isolated elderly would have a positive psychosomatic benefit from talking to someone each day. But staffing is always an issue and a text can be routed to email or whatever.

      DHBs probably don’t realise that positive psychosomatic effects offset the cost of staff. A friend who is a GP agrees with me when I say that inpatient outcomes would be vastly improved if doctors had a decent amount of time available to spend with each patient.

      Hopefully it’s just a case of turning on cellphone, scales, and BP device and then everything is automatic. Or at most they have to push one button on the scales and BP device. Perhaps the phone has software which recognises incoming data from the devices and does the rest automatically: that would optimal.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — November 5, 2009 @ 10:35 am

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