by Dr Aravinth Balachandran

Introducing the eConsult hypertension iPhone app

Helping patients manage high blood pressure

According to the charity Blood Pressure UK, high blood pressure accounts for more than 12% of all GP consultations in England and costs the NHS over £2 billion a year. Hypertension affects around one in three adults in the UK (about 16 million), so it’s important that we help people manage the condition.

“High blood pressure accounts for more than 12% of all GP consultations in England, and costs the NHS over £2 billion a year”

Every year, patients with high blood pressure need a review with their GP to monitor their condition and, if necessary, adjust their medication. Yet it can be a challenge for practices to pin people down for their appointment. Busy lifestyles, ‘head in the sand’ thinking and any number of other reasons can lead to missed appointments, and the whole process takes a lot of time. In my practice, for example, we have over 2,000 hypertensive patients, and that’s a lot of GP, nurse and admin hours.

At eConsult, we wanted to find a better way to deal with this that would not only save time but also help patients get better health outcomes. Many people dread their annual review – we often hear people refer to ‘white coat syndrome’ artificially inflating their blood pressure on the day, while a lot of patients would actually prefer to have their condition under more regular scrutiny.

With the hypertension iPhone app, we came up with a new way of handling hypertension reviews by offering patients the chance to transmit information to their GP electronically so that we could monitor their condition remotely. It also empowers patients to keep track of their own blood pressure and submit details on a regular basis. This gives us a set of data to work with as a guide to management of their condition, which is much better than an annual snapshot. Patients have responded really well to this – some even keep a set of charts or spreadsheets, while others just scribble the data on a piece of paper. But however they keep track of their blood pressure, submitting this information using the app allows us to review it without the need for them to visit the surgery – we can also change their prescription remotely too, if necessary.

Dr Ross Dyer-Smith, GP Partner at the Riverside Medical Centre, has been trialling the app with his patients. “People have responded really well to it,” he says. “So many of us are on the go constantly and find it difficult to take time out of our schedules to attend appointments at the surgery. This puts people in control and means many of them won’t ever have to come in for the annual check-up. From our point of view as GPs, it’s great too, because the app communicates necessary information to the surgery at appropriate time intervals, giving us a more accurate picture of the patient’s blood pressure over time, as well as notifying them when their next review is due. So the practice doesn’t even have to activate the normal annual review process.

“The app communicates necessary information to the surgery at appropriate time intervals, giving us a more accurate picture of the patient’s blood pressure over time, as well as notifying them when their next review is due.”

“We are confident that patients using the app get better outcomes this way, and we’ve saved a lot of time in administering and carrying out the annual hypertension reviews that we can now allocate to other patients.”

Thanks to the success of the hypertension app, are now concentrating on developing apps for managing asthma and COPD – watch this space.