Virtual monitoring by mobile phone ensures TB patients complete
13 September 2013
Sending videos by mobile phone is an effective technique to
ensure TB patients take their prescribed medication and complete
their course of treatment.
The study by researchers from the Royal Free London NHS
Foundation Trust suggests it is an effective alternative method to
directly observed treatment (DOT), which is recommended by the World
Health Organization. Directly observing treatments is often time
consuming for a patient and is resource intensive for healthcare
professionals in outreach projects that seek to help people who may
not wish to visit a clinic.
The virtually observed treatment (VOT) method instead requires
people to send a short video of them taking their medication, to
their healthcare provider using a mobile phone. After an initial
visit to the clinic, this can be completed remotely, with any issues
being followed up when required.
In a pilot project the researchers were able to observe 86% of
scheduled doses and concluded that this was a feasible method of
monitoring TB treatment programmes in people able to use VOT.
Lead author, Sara Hemming, said: “These preliminary findings
suggest that telemedicine can help us overcome the difficulties
we’ve seen in directly monitoring patients taking their medicine.
Some people are unable or unwilling to visit clinics for a variety
of reasons, but by enabling healthcare professionals to virtually
monitor patients, we can still ensure effective medication use
without the need for a one-to-one session.
“This has the potential to not only reach people who are
otherwise unengaged, but also reduce costs and resources. A larger
trial comparing the two techniques is needed to ensure the safety
and reliability of this technique, and also determine who benefits
most from this approach.”
European Respiratory Society President, Professor Francesco Blasi,
said: “The European Lung White Book, which is launched this week,
calls on countries with high rates of TB, to set up strategies to
manage the large numbers of people with drug-susceptible and
multidrug-resistant-TB (MDR-TB). This study shows one way that could
improve the effectiveness of treatments for people who are
particularly hard-to-reach. The outcomes of this pilot study are
positive and I look forward to seeing the results of a larger
The research was presented at the European Respiratory Society
(ERS) Annual Congress.
See MTB Europe news: Lung diseases cost EU nations €400bn/yr
for details of The European Lung White Book.