Vulnerable heart failure patients who have seen reduced hospital check-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic are now being monitored remotely, following the introduction of a state-of-the-art digital care solution.
Healthcare teams at Salford Care Organisation, part of the Northern Care Alliance Group, are piloting the use of a remote monitoring system which uses a smartphone app and easy-to-use connected Bluetooth devices to empower patients to self-manage and record their weight and blood pressure between appointments.
The new system developed by Norwegian medical tech firm Dignio, automatically sends a patients’ readings directly to clinicians at Salford Royal via a special data platform. Although face-to-face appointments are still needed for this group of patients to do blood test and physical examinations, they are now happening less frequently.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused restrictions in movement, social distancing and more hygiene between patients, so the service had to see fewer patients per clinic. With the help of the new system and what amounts to a ‘virtual clinic’ patients can opt to be seen face to face less often, but are still cared for.
Everyone taking part in the pilot gets access to the Dignio app to record their measurements manually and they also get a set of digital scales and blood pressure monitor. The data can be reviewed and monitored by the healthcare team and thresholds for alerts set on an individual patient basis, so clinicians are alerted when something falls outside of an acceptable range.
The platform effectively flags up any signs which indicate their condition is deteriorating between visits.
Dr Nehal Hussain, consultant cardiologist and heart failure lead at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, explained how the pilot project will work: “One of the key things we look for is the patient’s weight – if it increases more than two kilos over seven days there is the potential for a fluid build-up and we would need to have a telephone consultation to discuss this.
“We can actually use the system to have a video consultation. Rather than having to wait several weeks to find this out, we can potentially pick this up sooner and give the right advice. The aim is to avoid hospital admissions for our patients.
“Patients don’t want to have to go into hospital and we want to try to care for them in their home and in the community.
“We often tell people to weigh themselves, so this isn’t new, but if there is a way to get this fed back to us and to show them visually, I’m hoping it will encourage and help us engage more with our patients. There are a large number of patients who do not do this, so hopefully having the app will help them engage with us more.”
If a patient with heart failure becomes unwell, it can potentially lead to an admission with a patient staying in hospital for up to 11 days. This costs around £4,000 for each stay. By identifying a problem before this happens using the MyDignio app, potentially means hospital admissions can be reduced.
Originally developed in Norway, the app and the remote care solution has been widely used across the country for monitoring patients with a variety of long-term health conditions.
Dr Meetali Kakad, global chief medical Officer at Dignio, said: “We focus on empowering patients with more knowledge about their disease and tools for self-management in order to slow disease progression and to reduce preventable admissions. Municipalities in Norway who have successfully been using our solutions to follow patients with hypertension and heart failure in the community for almost eight years. We are very excited to be working with the heart failure team at Salford Care.”