Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to pump blood effectively. One of the results of this chronic condition is that fluid builds up in the patient’s body. In time, the lungs start to fill with fluid — as with pneumonia — and the patient has difficulty breathing. At a crisis level, the patient must be rushed to the hospital to drain the excess fluid. More than half of heart failure patients who have been hospitalized will be readmitted within six months. However if the fluid buildup can be detected sooner, the solution may be as simple as an adjustment in medication which can be handled on an out-patient basis or even with a home visit by a nurse.

Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexler Medical Center are leading a clinical trial of a new device that could reduce readmissions through early detection. A vest uses radar technology to remotely monitor fluid buildup in the patient’s lungs. The patient wears the vest for a minute and a half each day; the data is recorded and forwarded to physicians for their review. Dangerous trends can be identified early, and the patient medication can be adjusted. In many cases, this eliminates the need to visit a doctor’s office to track the changes, as well as cuts down on expensive hospital readmissions. Preliminary data has shown an 87% reduction in hospital readmissions in just the first three months of use.

This type of digital health technology can improve the quality of life for these patients, make treatment far more effective, and result in dramatic healthcare cost reductions. This is just one more example of how a proactive and preventative strategy is better than the traditional reactive approach.