UK primary care group adopts digital heart failure pathway

heart failure

A digital approach to the care of patients with heart failure, developed by Boehringer Ingelheim and ORCHA, will be rolled out in the northwest of the UK by a primary care group.

Widnes Primary Care Network, which is part of NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, said the new initiative will help healthcare professionals identify and recommend digital health apps that can be used at appropriate points in each patient's care journey as an adjunct to their regular treatment.

Boehringer formed a partnership with ORCHA – the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps – earlier this year to encourage the use of digital technologies and improve the digital skills of health and care workers.

The agreement with Widnes Primary Care Network is intended to help HCPs “to feel confident in prescribing trusted and assessed digital health apps to patients living with heart and circulatory diseases” across the Cheshire and Merseyside region.

Some areas of the region, such as Halton in Cheshire, have a prevalence of heart failure that is higher than the national average with around 10% of patients dying from heart disease. Across the UK, there are around 200,000 new cases of heart failure every year, and it is the leading cause of hospital admissions in the over-65 age band.

At any time, there are around 900,000 people across the country living with heart failure, and the numbers are predicted to increase over the next five years, placing a considerable burden on the NHS.

Digital health apps designed to support patients with heart failure have been shown to improve quality of life, as well as clinical outcomes in some cases. Earlier this year, an artificial intelligence-powered digital tool developed by researchers in the NHS that is being used to speed up the diagnosis of heart disease won the 2023 Future NHS Award.

The new pathway will cover patients being treated for the disease across primary, secondary, and tertiary care. Both the pathway and the apps featured are held in NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s Digital Health Formulary – a single platform where staff can quickly find and recommend an app to a patient.

Once an HCP has prescribed 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,” he added. “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.”

Boehringer and Eli Lilly have a drug for heart failure, SGLT2 inhibitor Jardiance (empagliflozin), that has been recommended for NHS use in patients with some forms of the disease and has been shown in trials to reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular causes or the need for hospitalisation.

The company’s head of human pharma in the UK and Ireland, Vani Manja, said the new digital health 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,” she added.