NHS patients in Rotherham have been part of an innovative programme using technology to help monitor heart health.
An estimated 2061 people in Rotherham have heart failure, a life limiting condition which is on the increase largely due to our aging population and the fact that many people are now living longer after having a heart attack – due to improvements and advancements in care.
To support locals with heart failure to monitor their own health, nurses from The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust have led the way by trialling a ‘telehealth’ monitoring and education programme, using tablet computers and simple devices such as blood pressure monitors.
Through the project patients were given the equipment to monitor themselves for 12 weeks, with the support of specialist heart failure nurses. Patients measured their weight and blood pressure daily and entered it into the telehealth programme using the tablet computer.
Their measurements were then sent electrically to the Trust’s care coordination centre where any abnormal results could be immediately identified and escalated so that a specialist nurse could take action, if they needed to.
Alongside monitoring their health, patients took part in a simultaneous education programme through the tablet computer, or a paper version, which helped them to learn more about their condition and what they can do to improve their quality of life.
Sarah Briggs, Heart Failure Specialist Nurse at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our patients have responded very well to the telehealth project and have really enjoyed having this service in addition to their usual treatment.
“The aim of Telehealth is to help identify early signs and symptoms of fluid retention, which is a common symptom of heart failure. Fluid retention causes leg swelling and breathlessness and if treated early, symptoms can be improved and admission to hospital avoided. The other aim of Telehealth is to encourage patients with heart failure to continue to self monitor long term following the 12 week programme.
“The results of this project are very encouraging; less patients have had to go to hospital due to fluid retention, patients have reported that they feel more in control of their own health and feel more confident. It would be great if we could roll this out further in the future to continue bringing benefits to those in Rotherham living with heart failure.”
Peter Wragg, aged 71 of Catcliffe in Rotherham, took part in the teleheath programme, he said: “The telehealth programme is brilliant, at a time when I felt very vulnerable I found it very comforting to know there was someone else at hand to deal with any problems I may have had. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those dedicated people that made my life easier throughout a very difficult time.
“I can’t praise the staff enough, in all my dealings with them I found them to be caring thoughtful and efficient.”
Following the 12 week programme, patients return the equipment and continue to monitor themselves with the confidence and knowledge to identify symptoms of heart failure and seek help appropriately when it is needed.
In recognition of the work she has contributed towards the telehealth project and to patient care, Sarah Briggs was recently awarded the ‘Rising Star’ award at the British Heart Foundation annual conference.
Symptoms of heart failure include unpredictable episodes of breathlessness, swollen ankles and fluid retention. If not detected early enough and treated effectively, this can result in a severe reduction in quality of life and often lead to hospitalisation. If you have any of these symptoms or are concerned about your health you should visit your GP.
For more information about the work of The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, please visit: http://www.therotherhamft.nhs.uk/
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