Health Secretary tries out new home-based blood pressure tracking technology

Health Secretary, Shona Robison, is learning how simple it is to monitor her blood pressure without the need for regular visits to the GP.

As part of Digital Health and Care Week, she is visiting Boroughloch Medical Practice near the Meadows in Edinburgh today (Thursday 10 December) to find out more about the innovative Scale-Up Blood Pressure Project.

Boroughloch is one of 25 medical practices across NHS Lothian participating in the project. A total of 2500 patients are expected to enrol in the programme over the coming months, thanks to funding from the Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care Programme. 

Each patient will be given a blood pressure machine and be prompted to check their BP regularly. They will then simply text the results back to their surgery through a system called 'Florence'. Even the oldest mobile phone will work, and patients will be told immediately if their blood pressure is on target or if they should contact their surgery.

Surgery staff will be able to see patterns over time and so will have a much more accurate picture for each patient. Each month staff will get a report of the results which will give a clear indication whether a change in treatment needs to be considered.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “This is a simple, yet effective way for patients to self-manage their condition and avoid repeated trips to their GP. It shows how new technology can transform the way healthcare is delivered within our NHS. In particular, within primary care, new technology has the potential to revolutionise the way the system works -  improving the experience for patients and freeing up GP time to concentrate on more urgent and complex cases.”

Rob McCulloch-Graham, Edinburgh’s new Health and Social Care Chief Officer said: “ This is a great way for our patients to monitor their blood pressure from the comfort of their own homes. They can be secure in the knowledge that their GP is getting a regular update on their condition and be reassured that they will be able to make any necessary adjustments to treatment.”

Professor Brian McKinstry, who led the research at the University of Edinburgh, said:

 “At-home monitoring of blood pressure can deliver huge benefits for both patients and their doctors. Patients can measure their blood pressure in the comfort of their own home and, as they are more relaxed than in a GP’s surgery, the readings are more accurate. We are hopeful that a wider adoption of this service will free up much needed clinical time for GPs to spend with patients, while improving the service received by those who require blood pressure monitoring over the long term.”

This programme is based on the findings of a University of Edinburgh study – the Telescot trial – that demonstrated the impact of tele-monitoring on blood pressure management.  The University is continuing its involvement in this innovative service, by leading the evaluation of the new roll-out as part of a two year research study funded by the Chief Scientist Office.

Dr Janet Hanley, Reader in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Care at Edinburgh Napier University, was chief investigator for the original trial which showed telemonitoring can be an effective method of improving blood pressure management and is part of the team evaluating the impact of the current initiative.

She said: “Our original research showed that telemetry-supported home blood pressure monitoring provided a convenient and trustworthy measure of blood pressure to help guide treatment and to help people lower their blood pressure. The technology reduces the need for people to go to their surgery for blood pressure checks but, more importantly, better blood pressure control reduces individuals' risk of stroke, chronic kidney disease and other high blood pressure related conditions. The current initiative will allow this technology to be rolled out to thousands of patients.”

A total of 13 patients from the surgery are currently participating in the programme and the feedback has highlighted how effective combining technology and a person-centre approach to healthcare can be.

The Project team have also put together a section on the 'Living-It-Up' website where patients can go to get advice on lifestyle and looking after their blood pressure.

The project is being evaluated by the University of Edinburgh and, if successful, the aim is to roll out the programme across Scotland to all those who need it and are keen to self-manage their blood pressure.