Virtual ward firm Doccla starts atrial fibrillation project

Doccla sensor

A new partnership between virtual ward start-up Doccla, wearable tech company AliveCor, and a UK healthcare trust will examine the care of patients with atrial fibrillation outside of hospital.

The project with University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire (UHCW) will make use of Doccla technology that allows clinical staff to monitor patient vital signs remotely with sensors, as well as AliveCor’s smartphone-linked electrocardiogram recording device.

Doccla will provide a total of 100 virtual wards to patients with AF who are on the waiting list for care at UHCW, tracking patients including ECG, activity, weight, height, and symptom data using its own platform and AliveCor’s KardiaMobile device over a period of nine months.

AF causes an irregular and abnormally fast heartrate, which reduces the heart’s efficiency and performance, but also raises the risk of blood clots, placing people with it at increased risk of stroke, heart failure, dementia, and death.

According to the NHS waiting list tracker, the average waiting time for a first outpatient appointment at UHCW’s cardiology unit currently stands at around almost four months, and three months for treatment.

At the same time, a recent study published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe journal found that cases of AF in England have increased by 72% over the last two decades, raising the demands on the NHS for diagnosis and treatment of the heart rhythm condition.

By monitoring vital signs and patient symptoms, the project will identify early concerns and initiate early assessment or treatment, as well as prioritise patients and clinical workload according to need, said the partners.

Commenting on the project, UHCW consultant electrophysiologist of cardiology, Professor Tarv Dhanjal, said: “Virtual ward technology is increasingly used across the NHS and I am excited to work with Doccla on deploying the technology for atrial fibrillation patients.”

“Patient monitoring is so crucial to successful treatment journeys and the enhanced clinical capacity offered by virtual wards is significant,” he added.

Current NHS England guidance is that, as of the end of last year, NHS providers should have already been able to offer virtual wards to frail patients and those with respiratory issues and, while many were unable to meet that deadline, the direction of travel is expansion of the concept across many more conditions.

Launched in the UK during the pandemic, Doccla was created following the unexpected heart attack of its co-founder, Martin Ratz, and has grown rapidly since then to the point that its technology is used in 20% of all integrated care systems (ICS) in the UK, and by more than 20 hospitals.

Ratz said that the partnership means that people with AF “can remain in the comfort of their own homes, under the care of clinicians, with all their symptoms carefully analysed remotely by medical staff, preventing the need for constant hospital readmission.”