Ground-Breaking Leicester Atrial Fibrillation Management Goes Virtual

People in Leicester experiencing an irregular heart rhythm are set to benefit from virtual monitoring thanks to a new innovation at Leicester's Hospitals.

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has become one of the first in the UK to create a remote monitoring ward for patients with atrial fibrillation. The revolutionary scheme, which has been awarded £274,000 funding from NHS England's Transformation Directorate (formerly NHSX), is being run in association with health tech specialist, Dignio, and will provide 120 virtual beds.

Atrial fibrillation patients admitted with fast heart rates would normally spend two or more days in hospital with close monitoring to assess response to the treatment received. With the new 'connected care' solution, suitable patients can now stay in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by friends and family whilst reducing the need to be managed in the hospital.

A pilot scheme has already seen patients being given special equipment to monitor their blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels as well as a device that produces an electrocardiogram (ECG) that gives detailed assessment of their heart rhythm. Important readings and symptoms are captured via the My Dignio app, which allows patient data to be automatically and securely transmitted to the hospital, where it can be viewed by clinicians remotely.

Atrial fibrillation, commonly called AF, is a common heart rhythm disturbance where parts of the heart 'misfire', causing the heart to beat irregularly and often more quickly. Patients with the condition can have dizzy spells, palpitation and shortness of breath. AF affects 1-2 per cent of the general population, or one in 10 people over the age of 70, and increases the risk of stroke by five times.

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has taken part in international research into AF treatments and recently participated in a study which pioneered a concept of early treatment for AF patients, which was specifically designed to prevent strokes.

Professor Andre Ng, Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Professor of Cardiac Electrophysiology and Head of the Cardiovascular Sciences Department at the University of Leicester, said: "This is a glimpse into the future of care for patients with atrial fibrillation. This brand new service gives patients the opportunity to be managed and recuperate in their own homes whilst their heart rhythm settles back to normal but with the peace of mind that they’re still being monitored by specialist clinicians."

Thanking colleagues including Advanced Nurse Practitioner Sue Armstrong and Clinical Research Fellow Dr Ahmed Kotb, Professor Ng added: "We've been running the pilot for six weeks - we have already received great feedback from the patients treated and have successfully managed patients with reduced hospital stay and avoided admission/readmissions. We're really pleased that our work is recognised with the Digital Health Partnership award and proud that Leicester is leading the way on this."

Ewa Truchanowic, Dignio Managing Director said: "We are really pleased to be working with the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. Our virtual ward solution is flexible enough to provide bespoke monitoring for a broad range of conditions, including AF. Our technology is helping to accelerate the world's transition to connected care."

Dignio, which specialises in connected care solutions has been successful in other health areas in several parts of the UK. Its 'My Dignio' and 'Dignio Care' smartphone and tablet apps connect directly to its 'Dignio Prevent' data platform, which is used by clinicians to assess patients remotely in real-time.

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