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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 19, 2008
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Heart Checks Via Internet
November 19, 2008   
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The use of information technology-as opposed to traditional equipment-in electrocardiogram (ECG) tests significantly reduces costs, say experts, who have prepared a report on the results of a pilot program run by the Institute of Cardiology in Warsaw's Anin neighborhood.

Computer technology enables the transfer of so-called bio-electrical images of the heart, or tele-ECG, from wherever the patient is to the diagnostic center. In practice, those patients who undergo tele-ECG are fitted with a miniature heart recorder, which is the size of a credit card and can be worn on a patient's belt, around his neck or in his pocket. The patient simply places the recorder on his chest and presses a button. His heart measurements can then be sent to the monitoring center via telephone or the internet. The report's authors say that the use of tele-ECG is significantly cheaper than that of stationary equipment.

In the event of a suspected heart attack, if an ambulance is fitted with the correct equipment, it is possible to send ECG images straight away to a specialist medical center, where doctors can immediately decide on what treatment is required. The patient is not taken to the nearest hospital but to one where he or she is guaranteed the best medical treatment. Thus the time that it takes to pick up a patient from their home, transfer them to hospital and to unblock the artery that caused the heart attack, is shortened.

Prof. Ryszard Piotrowicz, head of the institute's Noninvasive Electrocardiology Clinic, says that tele-ECG also has its uses in heart treatment. Therapy that is monitored and guided by this method in the patient's home is effective, safe and well received by patients. "This method is the only one that guarantees universal access to cardiological therapy and evens out the currently disproportional availability of such treatment across the country," says Piotrowicz.

The institute's patients can take advantage of telemedicine thanks to funds gleaned from scientific research and the Polish National Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Treatment Program (Polkard). Preparations are ongoing to implement the TeleInterMed program, which will introduce innovative telemedical methods not only for heart monitoring but also for echocardiography and radiology, experts say.

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