Posted on Tuesday 2 February 2016
Patients with heart failure at Guy’s and St Thomas’ are the first in London to use a smartphone which monitors their health and alerts nurses if they are at risk.
In total, 25 patients are trialling the smartphone as part of a health monitoring kit that takes daily readings of weight, heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels.
The data is collected through Bluetooth and sent to BT’s Telehealth service. Nurses analyse the data, discuss unusual findings with patients, and inform Guy’s and St Thomas’ nurses when an abnormal result is detected so they can take immediate action - potentially saving lives.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP is backing the innovative project. He says: “This trial is great news for NHS patients, putting the power in their hands to manage their conditions and providing clinicians with the most up-to-date information.
“We live in an exciting age of medical innovations and, by capitalising on the advances in digital health, the NHS will become a world leader in speeding up the time it takes to get new technologies and treatments to patients.”
Heart failure is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the heart doesn’t pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. The most common cause is coronary heart disease.
People with heart failure are at increased risk of a stroke and other serious conditions. Around 900,000 people in the UK have heart failure and 30-40% of heart failure patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
Kenneth Green, 71, from South Lambeth, is one of the first patients to use the new monitoring kit. He says: "I'd put on a lot of weight, my legs were swollen, I couldn't walk and I was out of breath. My GP sent me straight to St Thomas' where they put me on a machine for a week because of a heart condition. It was the first time I'd been in hospital since I was a baby."
Kenneth, who attends Guy’s and St Thomas’ heart failure clinic at Lambeth Community Care Centre in Kennington, records his health diligently using the smartphone device at home.
He says: "I make sure I take the readings every day. It's very easy and, if anything changes, for example my weight fluctuates, the Telehealth nurse contacts me to make sure everything is okay.
"I never had any trouble with my heart before so it feels like extra security. I'm one of the lucky ones, someone's keeping an eye on me so I stay well."
Martin Larner, a heart failure clinical nurse specialist at Guy’s and St Thomas’, says: “The kit is a constant reminder to our patients that they need to change their lifestyle and take control of their health so their condition doesn’t worsen.
“It will help patients to monitor their condition and the system will alert our nurses when there is a problem. In this way we hope to stop patients from reaching crisis point and being admitted to hospital or visiting their GP. The monitoring kit has the potential to save many lives.”
Alison Pollard, Deputy Head of Nursing for Community Inpatients at Guy’s and St Thomas’, says: “It’s not always easy for heart failure patients to keep track of their symptoms and they may deteriorate quite suddenly.
“By monitoring their health every day, we can quickly spot if there is a problem. We can take action, including adjusting their medication or arranging for them to get more support from our inpatient or community heart failure nurse specialists.”
Ian Dalton, President, Global Government and Health, BT Global Services, says: “BT welcomes the opportunity to work with Guy’s and St Thomas’ on this innovative pilot which marks the first time we’ve delivered Telehealth services in the capital.
“It’s been great to have the opportunity to work with an acute hospital to explore how patients with heart failure can use Telehealth to improve their experience of care. Over the last three months we’ve seen the benefit which the service can bring to patients like Kenneth.
“This reinforces BT’s commitment to the provision of remote care services, such as Telehealth, as part of our ongoing strategy supporting the transformation of health and social care.”
Heart failure patients who take part in the trial are from Lambeth and Southwark. They are provided with a smartphone, scales, a machine to measure oxygen levels in the blood, and a blood pressure cuff.