Serving People, Improving Health Project: Distance is no longer a barrier to heart disease diagnosis and treatment in Zaporizhzhia oblast
All 32 primary healthcare centers in Zaporizhzhia oblast were provided with the necessary equipment – computers, electrocardiographs and USB flash drives for storing ECGs – for offering remote medical consultations to patients from rural and remote areas. In a relatively short period, this practice has already saved the lives of many heart disease patients in the region. The equipment was purchased and delivered to the primary healthcare centers in Zaporizhzhia oblast under the ‘Improving medical care to patients with diseases of the circulatory system in the Zaporizhzhia oblast’ subproject of the Serving People, Improving Health joint project of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine with the World Bank.
Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment of heart diseases are necessary to prevent an attack, the management of which is a medical emergency. While getting a consultation of cardiac care specialist is not a problem for most urban dwellers, it can be a real challenge to some residents of rural and remote areas. One solution to this problem is to offer remote medical consultations.
Therefore, the equipment provided under the Serving People, Improving Health joint project is used to develop a system of Internet-based remote medical consultations in Zaporizhzhia oblast. In complicated cases, PHC physicians can consult in real time with intensive care specialists from the Regional Medical Center for Cardiovascular Diseases of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast Council. Whenever necessary, a PHC physician can make an ECG while examining a patient at home or in a local outpatient clinic, then record it to a USB flash drive, and send it to a cardiac care specialist, who reads the ECG and contacts the PHC physician via Skype or in some other way within 10-15 minutes. Healthcare professionals discuss the diagnosis, offer specific recommendations regarding further steps and, if necessary, treatment.
Today, heart disease patients from the most remote areas of Zaporizhzhia oblast do not need to travel long distances to get a professional consultation and help of a cardiologist from the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases, because they can do it either from home or from a local outpatient clinic. Remote medical consultations are provided to these patients free of charge.
On the one hand, the introduction of a remote consultation system contributes to decreasing unnecessary hospitalizations and unconfirmed diagnoses. On the other hand, all patients who require urgent care get a timely diagnosis and are referred to one of the regional reperfusion centers, where an experienced team of interventional cardiologists delivers high-quality care on a 24/7/365 basis.