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Continua: Telehealth Platform Saved Lives After Japan Earthquake

A remote monitoring platform helped clinicians track earthquake survivors at risk of cardiac stress. PCHA officials say it worked because it uses Continua's mHealth interoperability standards.

Source: ThinkStock

- A four-year study of survivors of the 2011 Japan earthquake has found that a remote monitoring platform conforming to Continua standards can reduce cardiac stress and improve long-term patient monitoring.

The study, published last year in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, suggests that a telehealth platform can improve outcomes and even save lives if integrated with an internationally recognized interoperability framework that improves data transfer.

"Study authors concluded that D-CAP saved lives," Patricia Mechael, PhD, executive vice president of the Personal Connected Health Alliance, said in a press release of Continua’s Disaster Cardiovascular Prevention Network, which was deployed following the earthquake. "User-friendly connections between Continua-certified devices reduced device and data integration time when it was medically critical. The Continua-certified network approach directly enabled positive outcomes for patients and demonstrated cost savings for vendors participating in the network."

The Continua Health Alliance is a founding member of the three-year-old PCHA, along with the Healthcare Information and management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the mHealth Summit. The Oregon-based organization’s mHealth interoperability framework, called the Continua Design Guidelines, has been adopted by countries across the globe and is the focus on the PCHA’s efforts to promote a common set of standards and interoperability guidelines that could link telehealth and mHealth networks around the world.

According to the study, some 1,500 survivors of the 2011 earthquake were screened immediately after the disaster, of which 400 were identified as having cardiac risk and assigned to the D-CAP program. They were encouraged to monitor their own blood pressure in the evacuation camps, then given wireless blood pressure monitors when they were moved into temporary housing. The data was uploaded to the cloud and monitored at Jichi Medical University, about 200 kilometers away.

Four years after the earthquake, researchers said, 341 of the D-CAP enrollees were still monitoring their blood pressure, with data stores in the cloud, and their blood pressure had decreased to the point that they could be classified as being under “strict control” – “superior to results typically obtained from monitoring via physician office visits.”

In addition, researchers reported that the D-CAP enrollees saw less spikes and variations between summer blood pressures, which are traditionally lower, and winter blood pressures.

The study points to the value of an integrated remote monitoring platform not only during disasters, when delays in synching technology and transferring data could mean the different between life and death, but in everyday RPM programs designed to continuously monitor patients with chronic conditions in their homes.

Last August, five European nations and Spain’s Catalonia region petitioned Europe’s 28-member eHealth Network and the European Commission to adopt the Continua guidelines. They cites barriers familiar to telehealth advocates in the U.S.: healthcare systems reluctant to update legacy IT systems that can’t easily support new technology, and a hesitance to adopt open standards that would enable interoperability.

“Telehealth has demonstrated considerable potential as an approach for empowering citizens with timely personalized health data and improving health and quality of life for our people,” Sara Meunier, chief technology officer of Inera/SALAR, Sweden’s eHealth agency, said. “Our letter appeals to the eHealth Network and its member states to help us overcome gridlock in the industry and advance the adoption of open standards for interoperable personal connected health.” 

“The Continua Design Guidelines were developed and are updated annually to support open, interoperable health data exchange that goes hand in hand with the public sector mission for convenient, personalized and high quality healthcare,” added Rob Havasy, executive director of Continua, vice president of the PCHA and a former Partners Health administrator. “We are grateful for the pioneering work of these government agencies, that are paving the way for improved healthcare access, quality and outcomes through telehealth and personal connected health.”

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