Remote diagnosis of congenital heart disease: the impact of telemedicine

Brian Grant, Gareth J Morgan, Brian A McCrossan, Grainne E Crealey, Andrew J Sands, Brian Craig, Frank A Casey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To determine the accuracy of remote diagnosis of congenital heart disease (CHD) by real-time transmission of echocardiographic images via integrated services digital network (ISDN) lines, to assess the impact on patient management and examine cost implications.

DESIGN: Prospective comparison of echocardiograms on infants with suspected significant CHD performed as follows: (1) hands-on evaluation and echocardiogram by a paediatrician at a district general hospital (DGH) followed by (2) transmission of the echocardiogram via ISDN 6 with guidance from a paediatric cardiologist and finally (3) hands-on evaluation and echocardiogram by a paediatric cardiologist. The economic analysis compares the cost of patient care associated with the telemedicine service with a hypothetical control group.

SETTING: Neonatal units of three DGH and a UK regional paediatric cardiology unit.

RESULTS: Echocardiograms were transmitted on 124 infants. In five cases scans were inadequate for diagnosis. Of the remaining 119 tele-echocardiograms, a follow-up echocardiogram was performed on 109/119 (92%). Major CHD was diagnosed in 39/109 infants (36%) and minor CHD in 45 (41%). The tele-echo diagnosis was accurate in 96% of cases (kappa=0.89). Unnecessary transfer to the regional unit was avoided in 93/124 patients (75%). Despite relatively high implementation costs, telemedicine care was substantially cheaper than standard care. Each DGH potentially saved money by utilising the telemedicine service (mean saving: pound728/patient).

CONCLUSIONS: CHD is accurately diagnosed by realtime transmission of echocardiograms performed by paediatricians under live guidance and interpretation by a paediatric cardiologist. Remote diagnosis and exclusion of CHD affects patient management and may be cost saving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-80
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of disease in childhood
Issue number4
Early online date29 Nov 2009
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Apr 2010


  • Cardiology Service, Hospital/economics
  • Health Care Costs/statistics & numerical data
  • Heart Defects, Congenital/diagnostic imaging
  • Hospitals, District/economics
  • Hospitals, General/economics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Internet/economics
  • Northern Ireland
  • Patient Transfer/statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Teleradiology/economics
  • Ultrasonography
  • Unnecessary Procedures/statistics & numerical data


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