Clinician Article

Structured telephone support or non-invasive telemonitoring for patients with heart failure.

  • Inglis SC
  • Clark RA
  • Dierckx R
  • Prieto-Merino D
  • Cleland JG
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Oct 31;(10):CD007228. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007228.pub3. (Review)
PMID: 26517969
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  • Cardiology
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 6/7
  • Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Internal Medicine
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7


BACKGROUND: Specialised disease management programmes for heart failure aim to improve care, clinical outcomes and/or reduce healthcare utilisation. Since the last version of this review in 2010, several new trials of structured telephone support and non-invasive home telemonitoring have been published which have raised questions about their effectiveness.

OBJECTIVES: To review randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of structured telephone support or non-invasive home telemonitoring compared to standard practice for people with heart failure, in order to quantify the effects of these interventions over and above usual care.

SEARCH METHODS: We updated the searches of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), Health Technology AsseFssment Database (HTA) on the Cochrane Library; MEDLINE (OVID), EMBASE (OVID), CINAHL (EBSCO), Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Conference Proceedings Citation Index- Science (CPCI-S) on Web of Science (Thomson Reuters), AMED, Proquest Theses and Dissertations, IEEE Xplore and TROVE in January 2015. We handsearched bibliographies of relevant studies and systematic reviews and abstract conference proceedings. We applied no language limits.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included only peer-reviewed, published RCTs comparing structured telephone support or non-invasive home telemonitoring to usual care of people with chronic heart failure. The intervention or usual care could not include protocol-driven home visits or more intensive than usual (typically four to six weeks) clinic follow-up.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We present data as risk ratios (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Primary outcomes included all-cause mortality, all-cause and heart failure-related hospitalisations, which we analysed using a fixed-effect model. Other outcomes included length of stay, health-related quality of life, heart failure knowledge and self care, acceptability and cost; we described and tabulated these. We performed meta-regression to assess homogeneity (the null hypothesis) in each subgroup analysis and to see if the effect of the intervention varied according to some quantitative variable (such as year of publication or median age).

MAIN RESULTS: We include 41 studies of either structured telephone support or non-invasive home telemonitoring for people with heart failure, of which 17 were new and 24 had been included in the previous Cochrane review. In the current review, 25 studies evaluated structured telephone support (eight new studies, plus one study previously included but classified as telemonitoring; total of 9332 participants), 18 evaluated telemonitoring (nine new studies; total of 3860 participants). Two of the included studies trialled both structured telephone support and telemonitoring compared to usual care, therefore 43 comparisons are evident.Non-invasive telemonitoring reduced all-cause mortality (RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.94; participants = 3740; studies = 17; I² = 24%, GRADE: moderate-quality evidence) and heart failure-related hospitalisations (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.83; participants = 2148; studies = 8; I² = 20%, GRADE: moderate-quality evidence). Structured telephone support reduced all-cause mortality (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.98; participants = 9222; studies = 22; I² = 0%, GRADE: moderate-quality evidence) and heart failure-related hospitalisations (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.93; participants = 7030; studies = 16; I² = 27%, GRADE: moderate-quality evidence).Neither structured telephone support nor telemonitoring demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the risk of all-cause hospitalisations (structured telephone support: RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.00; participants = 7216; studies = 16; I² = 47%, GRADE: very low-quality evidence; non-invasive telemonitoring: RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.01; participants = 3332; studies = 13; I² = 71%, GRADE: very low-quality evidence).Seven structured telephone support studies reported length of stay, with one reporting a significant reduction in length of stay in hospital. Nine telemonitoring studies reported length of stay outcome, with one study reporting a significant reduction in the length of stay with the intervention. One telemonitoring study reported a large difference in the total number of hospitalisations for more than three days, but this was not an analysis of length of stay per hospitalisation. Nine of 11 structured telephone support studies and five of 11 telemonitoring studies reported significant improvements in health-related quality of life. Nine structured telephone support studies and six telemonitoring studies reported costs of the intervention or cost effectiveness. Three structured telephone support studies and one telemonitoring study reported a decrease in costs and two telemonitoring studies reported increases in cost, due both to the cost of the intervention and to increased medical management. Adherence was rated between 55.1% and 98.5% for those structured telephone support and telemonitoring studies which reported this outcome. Participant acceptance of the intervention was reported in the range of 76% to 97% for studies which evaluated this outcome. Seven of nine studies that measured these outcomes reported significant improvements in heart failure knowledge and self-care behaviours.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: For people with heart failure, structured telephone support and non-invasive home telemonitoring reduce the risk of all-cause mortality and heart failure-related hospitalisations; these interventions also demonstrated improvements in health-related quality of life and heart failure knowledge and self-care behaviours. Studies also demonstrated participant satisfaction with the majority of the interventions which assessed this outcome.

Clinical Comments


Sounds impersonal. It depends what kind of "usual" medical care the placebo subjects receive, e.g., private vs public clinic.

Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)

I found this useful in that it demonstrated improvement in patients' understanding of their condition and helped them stay as well as possible and avoid hospitalization. It is, therefore, very worthwhile.

General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)

Useful review that suggests significant benefit to home telephone monitoring/follow-up in patients with heart failure.

General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)

Heart failure (HF) is a common problem in primary care. Many recent studies have demonstrated the value of telephonic and other telemonitoring approaches for HF. These approaches are becoming more common as health systems and practices endorse patient-centered medical homes, chronic care management programs, and other approaches toward becoming accountable care organizations. This systematic review basically confirms what many providers hopefully know about the value of these programs.

Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists

Builds on previous summaries of this topic. The findings make intuitive sense, too. Any intervention that can keep these patients out of the revolving door of hospitalizations is good.

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