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Telemedicine slashes hospital stays

Letting patients do tasks such as measuring their pulse from home reduces days in the hospital, British study shows.

A British telemedicine project has halved the time patients spend in the hospital by enabling doctors to monitor their condition remotely.

Carlisle Housing Association and the Carlisle and District Primary Care Trust wanted to reduce the length of hospital stays for patients and increase the independence of patients by giving them more information about their condition.

Using the system to manage chronic respiratory diseases, doctors in Carlisle have managed to reduce hospital stays for some patients from 10 days to 5.5 days.

The project involves giving telemedicine monitors to patients, thus allowing them to measure their own temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, electrocardiogram and blood pressure. These results are sent via a phone line to a secure server, where they are saved as an electronic patient record, which can then be accessed by doctors or nurses.

The system can monitor diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which currently costs the United Kingdom's National Health Service about $1.44 billion (818 million pounds) per year.

Having the equipment, supplied by Tunstall Group, helps patients feel less anxious about their condition because if readings on the monitor deviate from levels set by the clinician, an alert is sent out to the housing association.

Tunstall said the technology is very easy for patients to use and is used by people ages 35 to 82, with a 94 percent rate of acceptance by patients.

Kay Douglas, senior clinical manager on Carlisle's Intermediate Care Team, said the service is enabling patients to live independently but also enabling doctors to adopt a more preventative approach, which has helped to reduce hospital readmissions.

Steve Ranger of reported from London.