Patients could be able to take blood pressure tests from home and avoid a trip to their GP thanks to a groundbreaking new digital system.
Scale-Up BP, a home blood pressure test developed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Napier University, could make it easier for patients to send their results to a doctor.
People are able to take blood pressure readings and send them to a GP via the internet or by text message. Initial roll-outs show that those using the streamlined system exhibited better blood pressure control compared to those receiving standard care.
Professor Brian McKinstry, GP and Professor of Primary Care eHealth at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We believe our new system could help GP surgeries adhere to social distancing during the Covid-19 epidemic and will be of help to remote communities such as those in the Highlands and Islands.”
Researchers from both universities collaborated with NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government Technology Enabled Care Programme as part of the project. Around 3,200 patients across 75 GP practices in NHS Lothian were involved in the trials to develop the system.
The study was supported by the Chief Scientist Office and the British Heart Foundation.
At eight practices throughout the region, researchers said they found there was a fall in blood pressure among people using the home system.
Because patients also required fewer face-to-face consultations, the new technique was found to have an overall benefit on their health.
Initial success has led to the system being adopted at 358 practices across 11 of the 13 NHS Boards in Scotland, researchers said. Scale-up BP also won a prestigious award at the General Practice Awards.
Dr Jon Turvill, who trialled the system at The Harbours Medical Practice in East Lothian, said the blood pressure system has proven to be particularly convenient amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’ve found that Scale-Up BP frees up time and gives us more accurate blood pressure data. It’s even more appropriate in light of Covid-19 and we are pushing on to recruit more people,” he said.
“Knowing that we can prevent more heart attacks and strokes this way is a real plus factor and our patients like feeling supported without needing lots of trips to the health centre,” Turvill added.
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High blood pressure is the biggest treatable cause of stroke and heart attack and is typically monitored by nurses in local practices across the country. Each year, some 12 million appointments are made in the UK.
Research has previously shown that at-home monitoring of blood pressure is a more efficient method of keeping it in check than routine appointments. However, GP practices have been slow to roll-out home systems.
This is partly due to workload and difficulties adapting home results to the surgery’s computing processes.
While this home system has proven beneficial, researchers cautioned that those with the worst blood pressure scores were more likely to stop using the system. The reasons behind this lack of engagement should be explored and addressed, they said.