Heart patients test world's first 'anytime' health assessment booth


Patients at Southampton’s university hospitals are trialling the world’s first ‘anytime’ booth to assess the health of their heart without the need for a nurse, doctor or appointment.

The hi-tech cubicle at Southampton General Hospital enables people fitted with pacemakers the opportunity to have an instant check-up at a time that suits them – cutting waiting times and missed appointments, and giving staff more time to treat patients who require intervention.

Once patients enter the walk-in booth, they see a series of green lights precede two loud bleeps and a bullseye signal to confirm their data has transferred successfully.

Staff are then able to access the data through a secure server using the CareLink remote monitoring system and review the information downloaded from the pacemaker.

“This equipment could greatly improve the way patients with pacemakers are followed-up,” said Professor John Morgan, consultant cardiologist and study lead.

“Patients are able to come in when they want to and head home immediately after their assessment, which takes just a few minutes, and, once the team has evaluated their results, they will be contacted at home and informed of the outcome and what to do next.”

People with pacemakers routinely visit hospital once or twice a year for appointments, but are also able to arrange visits if they begin to feel unwell – and it is hoped the flexibility created by the booth will remove the added stress of needing to visit a GP first or request a slot to attend.

Prof Morgan, honorary chair in cardiac-rhythm management at the University of Southampton, explained: “We hope that patients who are due an appointment will find the whole process much smoother, and those who feel the need for an unscheduled trip if they’ve felt a bit unwell will feel more relaxed in the knowledge they can come without the strain of booking a date and making arrangements when they have not been feeling at their best.”

He added that only around 5% of patients ever need to have their pacemakers adjusted after follow-up.

“This innovation is the sort of development in healthcare that we need: we can free up patients who don’t need to see medical staff from having to attend clinics while focusing staff time on the minority of patients who actually need to see a doctor – an example of how the health service can improve the use of NHS resources,” he said.

Regular monitoring allows experts to examine changes in patients’ and intervene early if necessary. If successful, the booth could eventually be rolled-out across the community in health centres and GP practices to create easier access and free up hospital resources.

Posted on Tuesday 26 April 2011