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Mobile monitoring aids CF patients

An innovative early-intervention scheme uses mobile phone technology to help monitor the condition of cystic fibrosis patients

An innovative early-intervention scheme, which uses mobile phone technology to help doctors monitor the condition of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, promises to facilitate early diagnosis and intervention of problems requiring treatment with drugs.

The system is part of an established pilot scheme in the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), led by Dr Nabil Jarad, a consultant respiratory physician, who hopes that the new technology will enable doctors to administer treatment earlier, when it is easier on the patient and cheaper to do so.

Patients are supplied with an O2 mobile phone/palm computer with an e-San software system installed. They can then carry out a test using a lung function machine, which monitors the four main symptoms of cystic fibrosis - coughing, fatigue, breathing and sputum.

The results are automatically sent across a mobile phone network to a receiving station in the respiratory department at the BRI. Specialist doctors interpret the data and contact the patient if they need treatment. If the data show that two or three symptoms have worsened over three days, patients are classed as having an 'exacerbation' and are called in to see their doctor.

Through this early diagnosis, patients can receive oral antibiotics rather than waiting until they are in serious need of treatment, which may involve a much more expensive and lengthy course of intra-venous antibiotics. The system costs up to £400 per patient, compared with £2,000 for a course of IV antibiotics.

Marcella Creedon, a patient on the Bristol pilot scheme, told the BBC: ìThe system gives me a massive amount of reassurance. It's great to know that the people who are looking after me can monitor my condition every day.î

To date, 30 patients have been recruited into a trial of the system, yet researchers hope to reach a total of 50 participants.

"In general, the more severe the exacerbation, and the more frequent, the more rapid the decline of lung function, and the shorter the life expectancy will be,î Dr Jarad told the BBC. ìWe don't know yet whether early intervention with oral antibiotics will delay mortality - but that would make intuitive sense.î

The technology could have much wider applications - patients suffering from a variety of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes could be treated in the same way and companies like e-San are already involved in investigating these possibilities in partnership with mmO2 and Vodafone.

2nd September 2008

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