Patients who underwent vascular surgery reported more satisfaction in post-op care when they received a tablet that transmitted data to nurse care managers. They also scored higher scores for physical function and mental health. Researchers propose that at least in some cases, telemedicine can make a substantial difference in patient care.

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Remote medical advice

Technology has changed a lot about how we communicate with others. Not so long ago, we had no other means of communication with each other aside from direct speech and sending letters — but that changed greatly in recent years. In the 19th century, the phone was invented, revolutionizing long-distance communications. We thought we’ve seen it all, but along came the internet. Now, we can speak with our friends, host video conferences, stream on social media, you name it — it’s never been easier. But can this make a difference in medicine?

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care from a distance. Naturally, a lot of the medical diagnosis and treatment relies on direct contact. However, a few things can be done remotely, and telemedicine has done a lot to increase medical coverage in rural and inaccessible areas.

Post-op care seems to be a particularly interesting area for telemedicine. It’s a time when it’s important to monitor patients and see how they’re developing, and having remote information can turn out to be very valuable.

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For the study, researchers examined the outcomes and recovery of 30 vascular surgery patients. Out of them, 16 received tablets capable of transmitting data to nurse care managers, along with a home monitoring kit that included thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, scales and pulse oximeters. The care managers would monitor patient data and see if there are any abnormalities. If such an abnormality emerged, an intervention was prepared. Meanwhile, the other 14 patients received routine discharge instructions, but no monitoring equipment or tablets.

After 30 days, all patients had a health check-up. There were significant differences in readmission or wound infection rates between the two groups, though this could be a consequence of the small sample size.

However, there was still a significant effect: patients who used the tablets and monitoring equipment reported a higher level of satisfaction with their care, while also scoring more for physical function and mental health.

There are, of course, several limitations to this study. The small sample size, the type of surgery, the geography and culture of the patients involved can all be crucial factors. Still, researchers believe that at least in some cases, remote medical consultation and data analysis can yield important benefits.

“Telehealth technology to monitor patients, especially those in geographically isolated areas, may reduce post-operative complications and improve health and financial outcomes.” researchers concluded. “Telehealth successfully merged remotely generated information with care manager interaction”

“Presently, a larger study, preferably multicenter, is warranted and under consideration.”

The study has been published in the Annals of Vascular Surgery.