A study, conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Highland determined that patients at risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms have been successfully treated at an early stage thanks to the use of a remote monitoring service.

The study, which allowed patients to record their symptoms via telephone or through an app, helped healthcare personnel identify participants with low oxygen levels, thereby ensuring that they were admitted to hospital before their condition deteriorated, according to the researchers.

Most people with COVID-19 are able to self-manage the symptoms at home. However, some may develop serious hypoxia — when body tissue is deprived of adequate oxygen supply — and require hospital admission.

The elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, some ethnic minorities, and those with high body mass index are known to be at increased risk of deterioration.

Experts believe that early treatment is effective. The use of oxygen, steroids and novel anti-inflammatories, along with general supportive therapy, have been shown to reduce death rates or shorten admissions.

Researchers assessed the use of a telemonitoring service that allowed those at high risk of deterioration to record their symptoms.

If the updates suggested their condition was worsening, alerts were sent to the patient recommending they seek advice or urgent care. Patients also had the option of managing their condition using detailed written instructions provided by a clinician.

The research team tracked the outcomes of the first 116 patients who used the service. Of the 71 patients who submitted data, 35 received 151 alerts during their two-week observation.

Twenty-one of these patients were admitted to the hospital, with an average stay of 3.7 days. This is much shorter than the average stay for patients with COVID-19, but researchers said this may reflect the severity of the cases rather than any direct effect of the monitoring.

“We know early treatment of deterioration in COVID-19 saves lives. This research confirms the findings of several other similar international studies that telemonitoring has the potential to reassure patients that they can safely self-monitor at home and that deterioration in their condition will be detected early, and can be treated in a timely way,” explained Brian McKinstry, professor at the University of Edinburgh.

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