The University of Edinburgh has claimed a success in trials of a remote monitoring service of patients at risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms.
It has completed a small study with two Scottish NHS boards – NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Highland – that allowed patients to record their symptoms through an app or by telephone to help clinicians identify those with low oxygen levels.
If the updates suggested their condition was worsening, alerts were sent to the patient recommending they seek advice or urgent care.
They also had the option of managing their condition using detailed written instructions provided by a clinician.
The research team tracked the outcomes of the first 116 patients who used the service. Of the 71 who submitted data, 35 received 151 alerts during their two-week observation.
Of these, 21 were admitted to hospital, with an average stay of 3.7 days. The university said this is much shorter than the average stay for patients with Covid-19, but researchers said this may reflect the severity of the cases rather than any direct effect of the monitoring.
The service has now been rolled out to seven health boards, one of which is also using it for maternity patients, and is becoming available to others under a nationally funded contract.
Brian McKinstry, professor emeritus primary care e-health at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We know early treatment of deterioration in Covid-19 saves lives.
“This research confirms the findings of several other similar international studies that telemonitoring has the potential to reassure patients that they can safely self-monitor at home and that deterioration in their condition will be detected early, and can be treated in a timely way.”
Most people with Covid-19 are able to self-manage the symptoms at home. However, some people may develop serious hypoxia – when body tissue is deprived of adequate oxygen supply – and require hospital admission.
The elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, some ethnic minorities, and people with high body mass index are known to be at increased risk of deterioration.
Experts say that early treatment is effective. The use of oxygen, steroids, and novel anti-inflammatories, along with general supportive therapy, have been shown to reduce death rates or shorten admissions.
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