The British Heart Foundation have published a new report ‘Heart failure: a blueprint for change’ to highlight the challenges faced by heart failure patients in the UK – almost 1 million people. The report underlines the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the NHS and how it’s exposed significant inequalities in healthcare that existed before 2020. The need to ‘build back better’ is emphasised, as we see many types of patients, especially those with heart conditions, deprived of the speedy delivery of good quality healthcare.
In response to this report, we have explored the top seven ways remote monitoring can help heart failure patients live a better quality of life for longer.
A growing concern
There is no cure for heart failure, and 98% of heart failure patients live with another long-term condition, rendering them multi-morbid and more complex to manage.
As a result of the ageing population and an improving survival rate from acute cardiac events, the burden of heart failure in the UK is increasing.
There are more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year in the UK where heart failure is the primary diagnosis, having grown by almost a third in the past five years.
Emergency admissions can occur for many reasons, from patients suffering with breathlessness to chest pain. On average, heart failure patients stay 10 days in hospital, which is twice the national average of five days. Furthermore, up to a quarter of these patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge.
How can remote monitoring help?
Remote monitoring aims to make healthcare easier for both patients and clinicians. Using an online platform, healthcare providers can communicate with patients and track their condition within a ‘virtual ward’. This development has empowered patients with long-term conditions to self-manage in the comfort of their own homes, and enabled clinicians to utilise their time and resources more effectively.
1. Digitally connecting patients with clinicians
Connecting heart failure patients with their clinical team via a digital platform, allows their health to be monitored 24/7 in the comfort of their own home.
This reduces the number of doctor and hospital appointments required, empowering the patients to be more independent and lead relatively ‘normal’ lives. Whether it means allowing a patient to rest in the comfort of their own home or enabling a patient to continue with full-time work with less interruptions, remote monitoring can enhance their quality of life.
Having a direct connection with one’s clinician can also provide heart failure patients with reassurance and give them peace of mind that their condition is being checked on a regular basis.
Remote monitoring is also capable of providing education to help heart failure patients take control of their condition, manage symptoms more effectively and prevent future complications. Our study into the ‘Combined interventions for COPD admissions within an urban setting’ found that patients who used CliniTouch Vie, which offers educational resources, were more knowledgeable about their condition, more confident in managing it and motivated to adopt positive behaviour to improve their health.
Ensuring patients have access to approved, reliable information can reduce anxiety and give patients the tools to manage their disease on a daily basis empowering them to lead an enriched, informed and healthier lifestyle.
3. Prevention measure
Remote monitoring promotes a preventative approach to healthcare and strives to reduce unplanned hospital admissions.
By enabling clinicians to check up on patients on a regular basis in ‘virtual wards’ they can flag any potential issues and prevent patients requiring emergency services. As a result, this can drastically increase reduce heart failure patients’ risk of re-admission after discharge.
Our investigation into the ‘Combined interventions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) admissions within an urban setting’ found that the use of digital healthcare reduced hospital admissions, within a sample group, from 222 to 74 over a 12-month period.
4. Increases accessibility
An often-overlooked benefit of remote monitoring is its ability to provide good quality care to patients living in remote areas with poor access to healthcare facilities. As highlighted in NHS England’s ‘Improving access for all: reducing inequalities in access to general practice services’, patients who have poorer access to health services have poorer outcomes which can adversely impact their life expectancy. Thus, providing patients with easier access to clinicians via digital channels can provide better outcomes and prevent their life expectancy being negatively affected. This benefit can also be applied to heart failure patients that don’t drive and therefore find accessing healthcare more difficult.
5. Helps carers provide better care
As well as professional care home workers, remote monitoring can provide a great deal of support for unpaid carers. According to the Carers Week 2020 Research Report a quarter of UK adults are now providing unpaid care to an older, disabled or ill relative or friend . The COVID-19 pandemic played a large part in the drastic rise in unpaid carers.
Family members who have taken on a carer duty can use remote monitoring technology to better manage their loved ones’ condition. Knowing that a clinician is continuously checking their health status and will intervene when necessary, can reassure non-professional carers and help them provide better care for their loved one.
6. Shields vulnerable patients
For heart failure patients who need to be shielded, remote monitoring is particularly useful for preventing unplanned hospital admissions. By conducting consultations over the phone or on video call, patients can remain shielded and receive medical advice without compromising their health.
This can help to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are not deprived of good quality healthcare and their needs are properly addressed.
On our remote monitoring software, CliniTouch Vie, patients are prioritised with a red, amber or green status for rapid triage, so that clinicians can quickly ascertain when interventions are appropriate. This ensures that the patients at most risk are seen to first, thus reducing the risk of an emergency hospital admission. This is particularly helpful for heart failure patients, since their health status can fluctuate, and emergency admissions are common.
How can remote cardio-rehabilitation help heart failure patients?
At Spirit Digital, we have recently launched a new cardiopulmonary rehabilitation programme on CliniTouch Vie. Our goal is to increase capacity to treatment programmes without impacting patient safety and workload of clinical teams. The programme enables patients with heart failure and certain lung conditions to access their treatment programmes remotely, whilst being monitored by their healthcare practitioner.
As stated in the British Heart Foundation report, 185,000 heart failure patients were waiting for investigations or treatment in England at the end of July 2020, which underlines the importance of enabling patients to access rehabilitation remotely.
The response to our cardiopulmonary rehabilitation programme
“I find the tool as an extra pair of eyes to keep an eye on patients when they’re exercising at home… it also allows us to praise and encourage patients and ensure that they’re getting some motivation, as they may struggle with this aspect of the programme.”
– Physiotherapist using CliniTouch Vie
“It’s a great way to monitor our patients taking part in pulmonary and heart failure rehab. It has allowed us to pick up on problems for example, a patient’s blood pressure, which we may have not seen if the patient was doing the paper-based program. Patients have found the education material tool really useful and have enjoyed doing their exercises along with the exercise videos.”
– Rehab technical instructor using CliniTouch Vie
Get in touch
For a free demo of CliniTouch Vie or for more information about our cardiopulmonary rehabilitation programme, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
 BHF analysis of latest UK hospital data (NHS Digital, Public Health Scotland, NHS Wales Informatics Service & Northern Ireland Hospital Information Branch).
 National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (2019). Heart Failure Audit 2019 summary report (2017/18 data).