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Feature: Inhealthcare on how scaling remote monitoring can prevent more deaths from cardiovascular disease

Content by Bryn Sage, Inhealthcare.

It is one of the biggest killers in Britain. Cardiovascular disease causes a quarter of all deaths and is the leading cause of premature mortality in deprived areas. But this deadly disease is largely preventable – the NHS has identified the condition as the single largest opportunity to save lives over the next decade.

As a leading provider of remote monitoring technologies, Inhealthcare is working with the NHS across the nation to help people live longer, healthier lives through early detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease. From the north of Scotland to the south of England, we are scaling up successful services for NHS clinicians to improve health outcomes for patients and create capacity within the system.

Inhealthcare is also partnering with other health tech innovators to address the challenges posed by cardiovascular disease. Most recently, we joined forces with FibriCheck, the medically certified app for heart health, in a new collaboration that offers NHS organisations the ability to monitor heart health across integrated care systems and transform detection and condition management for people with atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the main causes of the disease.

We know that large numbers of people are living with undiagnosed or under-treated conditions, putting them at risk of heart attack, stroke and dementia as well as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Leaving aside the personal consequences for individuals, the financial costs of this ticking time-bomb are staggering: cardiovascular disease costs the health system an estimated £7.4 billion and the wider economy £15.8 billion. We believe there are significant savings that can be made through the scaling of remote monitoring.

Our services to support those with hypertension: for instance, Blood Pressure @ Home is helping patients to manage their condition by helping them understand how to manage their condition as well as giving their care team the data to allow them to intervene when necessary. With more than 13,000 patients a month using this service, it is demonstrably improving outcomes for patients and generating capacity in GP practices at a time when access to primary care is an acute problem.

FibriCheck enables mobile heart rhythm monitoring with medical grade accuracy and has been used by more than 2,000 clinicians and hospitals in 43 countries worldwide. FibriCheck users are empowered to measure their own heart rhythm by placing a finger on the camera of their smartphone, which captures valuable data about their cardiovascular system.

This exciting partnership is a reminder that remote monitoring technology can do so much to enable preventative healthcare and free up capacity within primary and secondary care and it is already here. Remote monitoring came of age during the pandemic when appointments went online en masse. Yet there are huge benefits still to be realised. We estimate that digitising routine services for long-term conditions could release tens of millions of appointments annually, not to mention save countless lives.

As a leading provider, we have plenty of real-world examples of how remote monitoring is making a difference to the NHS today.

In southern England, the Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership is working with Inhealthcare to target and support nearly 126,000 people estimated to be living with poorly controlled diagnosed or undiagnosed high blood pressure. Blood Pressure @ Home enables patients to monitor their blood pressure from the comfort of their homes without needing to visit their GP practice. They take their own readings and supply these via a choice of digitally inclusive communication channels – app, email, text message, or phone call – if any fall out of range, clinicians are alerted and can intervene early.

Dr Jagjit Rai, a GP in Stanwell, said: “We have demonstrated that patients are happy to monitor their condition from home, and when they do, they not only develop a better understanding but feel empowered to manage it better through remembering to take their medication and making lifestyle choices. This will lead to better preventative care for our patients and reduce the burden on GP practices as we receive the patients’ results electronically rather than having to see them each time.”

Scotland is becoming an international leader in using remote monitoring technology to help people safely manage their health needs at home without having to attend clinics in person. The nation has launched one of Europe’s most extensive remote monitoring services for high blood pressure. Working with the NHS and Scottish Government, Inhealthcare has developed and expanded many national pathways for long-term conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure.

Our enhanced digital approach is being offered to a growing number of patients to interact and communicate with their healthcare professionals, giving them more choice and greater flexibility about how and where they manage their health and wellbeing.

The national Scottish programme is provided free to the public via mobile app, website, text message or automated phone call, promoting digital inclusion for those without smartphones or broadband at home. It is being used to monitor the effects of starting or stopping treatments, issue reminders or encouragement, spot flare-ups so treatment can be delivered sooner, identify reasons why a condition might not be well controlled and offer advice and support during treatment plans.

Benefits for patients in Scotland include less time spent attending and travelling to appointments and increased confidence to self-manage conditions and care. Benefits for clinicians include better availability of data to assist early intervention, greater patient adherence to treatment, enhanced provision of care, net zero and productivity gains from less travel, more timely face-to-face contact with patients, more efficient use of resources and reduced hospital admissions.

We believe remote monitoring is the future of healthcare. Our award-winning platform automates as many processes as possible in a pathway. This means clinicians can focus their time and skills on patients who need the most care rather than having to carry out routine administrative tasks.

Our technology is tried and tested and delivered Scotland’s pathway for Covid patients. An evaluation for the Scottish Government found it improved access to NHS services and could be safely rolled out. The study also found that patients had positive experiences of using the system, and staff felt supported and engaged. It also reduced health inequalities, with more than twice as many people from disadvantaged areas utilising the service.

Scaling remote monitoring can reach people who find themselves outside the reach of traditional healthcare settings. In London, the NHS has launched a new tech-enabled programme to tackle the significant disparity in physical health outcomes for individuals living with severe mental illness (SMI). People with illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia die 15-20 years earlier than the general population, mainly due to preventable or treatable physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease. The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently warned that more than 26,000 adults with SMI die prematurely each year from preventable physical illnesses.

We have partnered with the North West London Integrated Care System to extend annual physical health check pathways to reach more SMI patients in community locations, introduce remote monitoring technology to support the pathways and improve data-sharing between different parts of the primary and secondary care system. Patients will be able to access physical health checks in convenient locations such as wellbeing centres, church halls, community centres and even their own homes.

Faith Lubimbi, tech-enabled Care@Home lead for North West London Integrated Care System, said: “Our ambitious programme aims to bridge the mortality gap and improve outcomes for the most vulnerable service users with severe mental illness. Inhealthcare is helping the NHS to integrate care between mental health and primary care providers to improve patient and staff experience, increase efficiency and lower the cost of care.”

It barely needs saying the NHS is under massive pressure. But look beyond the negative headlines and you will find some grounds for optimism about the future of the health service and our ability to combat preventable diseases by harnessing the power of technology to transform healthcare.

The government has a stated intention to create one of the world’s most exciting health innovation systems. In a recent speech, the Health Minister Lord Markham outlined his plan to scale digital technologies across the NHS and transform how we deliver health and care access. He said: “The process will support the emerging digital health technology market, while providing value for money for the NHS. It will help to consolidate the buying points, streamline market access for industry and will also provide opportunity to leverage the buying power of the NHS.”

The former businessman added he had experienced first-hand the challenges of doing business with the NHS and was committed to “removing barriers and ensuring our health service remains on the frontline of innovation”.

In this special feature for HTN, we have provided a few examples of innovation in the work we are doing with the NHS to tackle cardiovascular disease, which is a clinical priority in the Long Term Plan. It is reckoned that somebody is admitted to hospital with a heart attack every five minutes. That’s one more person in the time it has taken you to read these few paragraphs. Scaling remote monitoring gives us a chance to save more people from this killer disease.