Conference Coverage

Home telemonitoring for heart failure cuts mortality



– A comprehensive home telemonitoring program paid off big for selected patients with heart failure in a large, German nationwide masked randomization trial.

Dr. Friedrich Koehler, Charite University, Berlin, Germany, cardiologist Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Friedrich Koehler

In the 1,538-patient Telemedical Interventional Management in Heart Failure II (TIM-HF2) trial, participants randomized to the noninvasive home monitoring program had a 30% reduction in all-cause mortality during 12-13 months of prospective follow-up, compared with control subjects randomized to guideline-directed usual care. They also experienced an average of 6 fewer days of unplanned cardiovascular hospitalizations, Friedrich Koehler, MD, reported at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

Previous studies of home telemonitoring in heart failure patients have yielded mixed results. Dr. Koehler cited two explanations why TIM-HF2 was unreservedly positive while some other studies failed to demonstrate significant benefit.

First, TIM-HF2 didn’t rely on passive monitoring of the patients’ daily electronically submitted home data. Instead, the data went straight to a central telemonitoring center staffed 24/7 by physicians and nurses with heart failure expertise. There, the information was immediately analyzed using proprietary telemedical analytic software known as the Fontane system. The software employs individually tailored, self-adapting algorithms in order to alert staff when trouble is brewing.

But the telemonitoring intervention doesn’t merely detect early clinical deterioration. It’s also a vehicle for ongoing patient education, outpatient adjustment of drugs, management of major comorbid conditions, and hospital admissions as needed. The patient’s local primary care physician was also plugged into the remote monitoring system and kept abreast of the patient’s condition.

Second, TIM-HF2 focused on a carefully selected subgroup of heart failure patients whom prior studies suggested were particularly likely to benefit from home telemedical management. All participants were NYHA class II or III with a left ventricular ejection fraction of 45% or less, a hospitalization for heart failure within 12 months prior to randomization, and free of moderate or severe depression as evidenced by a baseline Patient Health Questionnaire-9 score of 9 or less, explained Dr. Koehler, head of the center for cardiovascular telemedicine at Charite University in Berlin.

Why exclude patients with depression?

“In this concept, with wholistic remote patient management, we need an active patient who is able to measure every day, who is able to communicate with the telemedical center, and who is able to communicate in this network created between the telemedical center and local caregivers. If someone is really depressed, unable to act, lying in bed saying it makes no sense to take drugs or do anything, then we cannot help. That is for us, I think, the most important thing. We’ve seen it now in two trials,” according to the cardiologist.

The all-cause mortality rate was 7.86 per 100 person-years in the home-telemonitoring group versus 11.34 in usual-care controls. Patients in the active intervention arm lost a mean of 17.8 days per year because of unplanned cardiovascular hospital admissions, compared with 24.2 days per year in controls.

Importantly, outcomes were equally good in the remote patient-management group regardless of whether patients were among the 40% of participants living in urban Germany or the 60% in rural areas. Thus, the telemonitoring intervention eliminated the geographic disparity in health care outcomes which is a prominent issue in Germany, as well as the United States.

A formal cost-benefit analysis of the TIM-HF2 results is in the works, Dr. Koehler said.

Simultaneous with his presentation in Munich, the TIM-HF2 study was published online in the Lancet.

In an accompanying editorial, two prominent heart failure experts – John F.G. Cleland, MD, of the University of Glasgow and Robin A. Clark, MD, of Flinders University in Adelaide – hailed TIM-HF2 as a major advance and indicated in sharp terms that it’s time for guideline writers to sit up and take notice.

“Despite much clinical skepticism and feeble support from most guidelines, in our view the growing weight of evidence suggests that home telemonitoring does reduce mortality for patients with heart failure, and this effect might be substantial. These and other trials also show that the emphasis placed on hospital admission for heart failure might be misplaced, at least from a patient’s perspective, because the proportion of days lost due to hospital admission is small, compared with those lost to death,” the physicians wrote in the editorial.

They also noted that, even though the between-group difference in the number of days during which patients were hospitalized for cardiovascular causes was relatively small, it’s clear that home telemonitoring triggered some potentially life-saving hospitalizations. “Home telemonitoring puts the patient back in the center of health care, ensuring that they know what the health professional is trying to achieve and that they agree with those aims. Ultimately, patients and their families are a large and relatively untapped health care resource,” they wrote.

The TIM-HF 2 trial was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Dr. Koehler reported receiving speaking and/or consultant fees from Novartis, Abbott, and Medtronic.

SOURCE: Koehler F et al. ESC Congress 2018. Lancet. 2018 Sep 22;392(10152):1047-57.

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