Telemedicine has been a popular tool to overcome the lack of access to healthcare facilities, primarily in underprivileged populations. We aimed to describe and assess the implementation of a tele-electrocardiography (ECG) program in primary care settings in Indonesia, and subsequently examine the short- and mid-term outcomes of patients who have received tele-ECG consultations.
ECG recordings from thirty primary care centers were transmitted to Makassar Cardiac Center, Indonesia from January to July 2017. We cross-sectionally measured the performance of this tele-ECG program, and prospectively sent a detailed questionnaire to general practitioners (GPs) at the primary care centers. We performed follow-up at 30 days and at the end of the study period to assess the patient outcomes.
Of 505 recordings, all (100%) ECGs were qualified for analysis, and about half showed normal findings. The mean age of participants was 53.3 ± 13.6 years, and 40.2% were male. Most (373, 73.9%) of these primary care patients exhibited manifested CVD symptom with at least one risk factor. Male patients had more ischemic ECGs compared to women (p  55 years) was associated with ischemic or arrhythmic ECGs (p < 0.05). Factors significantly associated with a normal ECG were younger age, female gender, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and no history of previous cardiovascular disease (CVD) or medication. More patients with an abnormal ECG had a history of hypertension, known diabetes, and were current smokers (p < 0.05). Of all tele-consultations, GPs reported 95% of satisfaction rate, and 296 (58.6%) used tele-ECG for an expert opinion. Over the total follow-up (14 ± 6.6 months), seven (1.4%) patients died and 96 (19.0%) were hospitalized for CVD. Of 88 patients for whom hospital admission was advised, 72 (81.8%) were immediately referred within 48 h following the tele-ECG consultation.
Tele-ECG can be implemented in Indonesian primary care settings with limited resources and may assist GPs in immediate triage, resulting in a higher rate of early hospitalization for indicated patients.