By Ann DeMaree
Cardiac diseases are increasing at an alarming rate globally.
Over 454,000 hospitalizations occur annually because of a primary diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), the most common abnormal cardiac rhythm worldwide. Diagnosing and managing this disease is a significant responsibility and burden for healthcare providers, and AFib can be devastating to an individual patient’s health and quality of life. Undiagnosed cases of AFib can lead to complications like disabling stroke, eventual heart failure or even sudden cardiac death.
Prescribing wearable ECG medical technology has become an increasingly popular approach to assist physicians and their patients in diagnosis of symptomatic cardiac arrhythmias or for periodic follow-up. How ECG data is shuttled between caregivers and analyzed, however, has a surprising number of manual steps that can lead to potentially adverse outcomes for healthcare providers and patients alike.
The major challenges in ECG Monitoring: Outsourcing of data analysis and reporting
In the U.S., when a healthcare provider needs to screen a patient for the presence of AFib or other cardiac arrhythmias, the patient is prescribed a multi-day ambulatory ECG patch, a traditional Holter ECG or event monitor – sometimes for weeks or more. The patient goes about their daily activities while wearing the device and eventually returns it to the healthcare provider or a third-party ECG service lab.
Healthcare providers often rely heavily on outsourcing ECG data analysis because they don't possess the technology to process a massive amount of ECG generated for each patient at the point of care. Data analysis and reporting of ECG data by a third-party ECG service center company means it processes patient results and bills payers for the technical component of the ambulatory ECG procedure code.
ECG service center outsourcing can take weeks, depending on the capacity of the facility as well as the everyday logistics challenges and staffing shortages they may face. In addition to diagnostic delays, outsourcing ECG services can result in delayed patient follow-up visits, miscommunication, patient data breaches or mix-ups, resulting in potentially lower quality of care.
Today’s technology innovations are helping healthcare providers overcome these challenges and transform how quickly and conveniently they can obtain needed diagnostic information to establish the patient’s diagnosis.