Digital Implementation, News

Primary care network to adopt new digital pathway for heart health


New approach to heart failure care will enhance provision of digital services to patients across Widnes primary care network.

Widnes PCN, a locality in NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, has launched a new digital health pathway for heart health. It will support healthcare professionals (HCPs) “to feel confident in prescribing trusted and assessed digital health apps for patients living with heart and circulatory diseases” across the locality.

The digital care pathway will provide HCPs across primary, secondary and tertiary care with the most appropriate apps to prescribe to patients as a digital adjunct to treatment, aiming to improve outcomes for patients who have, or will be diagnosed with, heart failure.

Heart failure affects more than 900,000 people in the UK, accounting for 5 per cent of all emergency hospital admissions. 200,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, and it is the leading cause of hospital admissions among over 65s. Care for heart failure patients meanwhile accounts for 2 per cent of the total NHS budget and it is estimated that hospital admissions for heart failure will rise by more than 50 per cent over the next 25 years.

Five-year survival rates for heart failure are worse than breast or prostate cancer and it is a strategic priority in Chesire and Merseyside. In the Halton locality, heart disease accounts for 10 per cent of all deaths, giving it a higher prevalence than the national average.

Widnes PCN has launched the new digital care pathway in partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim and the Organisation for the Review and Care of Health Apps (ORCHA) for the NHS. There are more than 350,000 digital health technologies on the market, including apps that can help prevent, diagnose and monitor heart health, as well as educational apps. However, only 20 per cent of apps currently meet ORCHA’s set quality thresholds.

The apps included in the pathway have been assessed, critiqued and selected after a three-month period of testing conducted by NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, ORCHA and Boehringer Ingelheim. Staff working across heart health services in the locality have received training on how to use the pathway and the apps within it.

Both the digital care pathway and the featured apps are held in NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s Digital Health Formulary – a single platform where staff can quickly find and recommend approved apps to patients. Once an HCP prescribes a tool, the patient receives a text or email with a link to download the app and access it via a website.

“Heart failure is a prevalent and incurable condition that requires a focus on managing symptoms and slowing its progression,” said Dr Henry Chan, GP and Heart Failure Lead in Widnes. “Unfortunately, it leads to early mortality and often results in emergency hospital admissions, placing a significant long-term demand on healthcare and social services.

“We are delighted to introduce this innovative digital pathway for heart health to recommend the most appropriate digital tools to support patients throughout their care journey.”

Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO of ORCHA, commented: “Increasing the adoption of digital health is the key to creating a more sustainable healthcare system and has vast potential to save lives. All apps available have been assessed and approved against ORCHA’s standards, so they are only directed to quality-assured tools and this ensures the most effective are recommended consistently across the system.”

Country Managing Director and Head of Human Pharma at Boehringer Ingelheim UK & Ireland, Vani Manja, said: “This project was led by a deep understanding from heart failure patients and clinicians themselves about their experiences and we collaboratively generated solutions that underpin this new pathway. I am hopeful that we can improve the experience and outcomes for patients across heart failure pathways, with a view to offering it more widely in other regions.”