Digital solution could help thousands of Scots with high blood pressure

1 May 2018        

Category: Survival and support

Image of blood pressure monitoring machine taking a reading

Nearly 30% of adults in Scotland have high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – and many of them are not receiving treatment because they don’t know they have it.

High blood pressure means the blood pressure is consistently higher than the recommended level. It often has no symptoms and people with the condition may feel perfectly well. However, if it’s left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and can lead to the development of heart failure, dementia and kidney failure.

That’s why new approaches are being tried to enable patients to better monitor and manage their blood pressure at home – giving them more control over their condition using a system that’s simple and convenient to use, and reducing the current demand for GP time spent on blood pressure monitoring.

The care model involves the person checking their blood pressure at home for an agreed period of time and simply texting the readings to the digital health system. If they are outwith the pre-agreed parameters, they will be advised what action to take. Clinicians can also view real-time information about patients at any time.

British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, NHS 24’s Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare, and the Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care Programme are working together in NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian and NHS Western Isles to integrate remote monitoring of blood pressure using a digital health solution.

There are several ways this digital technology can be applied in terms of both diagnosis and long term monitoring which this collaborative work will explore. It builds on earlier and ongoing work completed through the Technology Enabled Care Programme and will further inform new models of care which support enhanced self monitoring and are more convenient for patients.

Richard Forsyth, Health Service Engagement Lead at BHF Scotland, said: “High blood pressure is a very common condition that can have devastating consequences. If you have it, you’re more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. But it can usually be easily treated with medication and lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake, maintaining a healthy weight and being more physically active. That’s why we want to make sure more people understand their blood pressure, what the readings mean and how best to manage the condition.

“This innovative partnership with NHS 24's Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare and the three health boards gives us the opportunity to use digital technology to improve diagnosis and management of high blood pressure without increasing the workload for GPs and practice nurses. The evidence from this project will be used to support the spread and adoption of this model across Scotland.”

Professor Brian McKinstry, Professor of eHealth at The University of Edinburgh and Clinical Lead for the project, said: “The evidence that supervised telemonitoring improves outcomes in the management of high blood pressure is conclusive. Our research now focuses on the best way to implement these findings into routine practice so that people become more involved in managing their own blood pressure and, critically, in a way that does not increase workload for frontline staff. This programme working across Scotland and in collaboration with the BHF will further support our national work.”

The BHF funding is part of an overall £1.5 million package across the UK over the next three years, developing models of care which will aim to:

  • Increase the detection of people who have undiagnosed high blood pressure
  • Increase accessibility to blood pressure testing in the community
  • Increase support for patient self-management and self-testing to become routine practice.

This additional funding will continue to support world-leading work that has already started in Scotland, which is being funded by the Technology Enabled Care Programme. It is part of an overall commitment within Scotland’s new Digital Health and Care Strategy to scale up work on remote monitoring of long term conditions.

The BHF is currently funding around £6million worth of research into high blood pressure in Scotland, studying the causes and treatment of the condition.

Find out more about high blood pressure