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 STOKE-ON-TRENT, NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME, STAFFORDSHIRE MOORLANDS, SOUTH CHESHIRE

Innovative digital technology helps to protects lives in Staffordshire

Patients in Staffordshire are benefiting from innovative digital technology that is helping to diagnose heart problems that could cause a stroke and monitor their heart health from any location.

The Loomer Medical Group based in Staffordshire has introduced the use of digital stethoscopes and a smartphone app that enables patients to check their heart rhythm at home without needing any additional equipment.

FibriCheck, is a medically certified app capable of measuring a patient’s heart rhythm and detecting possible arrhythmias (a condition in which the heart beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm) with the use of a smartphone or smartwatch.

The Loomer Medical Group has been given free licenses by Fibricheck to trailblaze the technology in Staffordshire. From the 70 patients that have been screened 3 were found to have Atrial Fibrillation - a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. The app is now being rolled out in Primary Care Networks (PCNs) across the county.

Dr Jack Aw, a GP and senior partner of the Loomer Medical Group, said: “This is amazing for patient care and a massive cost saving to the System as these people could have had a stroke or heart attack in the future. These are three less potentially disabled individuals, who would not have been able to live healthier lives, be in work, and required care. Fibricheck has allowed us to be more responsive to patient care needs and helped with capacity in frontline general practice.”

Digital Stethoscopes, which enable doctors to record cardiac and pulmonary screenings as audio files, have helped GPs in the Loomer Medical Group to see patients virtually. Thousands of patients have now benefited from the digital device which has enabled district nurses when they are working remotely to have a GP listening virtually to a patient’s heartbeat at the same time.

The stethoscope wirelessly pairs with a mobile device, allowing clinicians to securely record, save, annotate and share sounds with experts for a second opinion.

“Having multiple sites, it enables us to stream from a site that is lacking in a GP to GPs who are able to take part in a joint assessment,” explains Dr Aw.

“We are currently using the innovative device for planned visits to see patients at home where they are streaming it back to clinicians to listen to chest, heart and lung sounds. We are also equipping a couple of care homes with the device so that we can improve the quality of assessments and the care that we provide. For them, it’s like having a GP by their side. It means we can take a multi-disciplinary approach.”

Janis Ashford, 72, from Kidsgrove was one of the first patients to benefit from the digital stethoscope.

“I think it was very good that my heart rate was able to be monitored by the nurses in my home and the results sent on to the doctor at the same time,” said Janis.” I found the technology really interesting. It has been a great help to me and the digital stethoscope is used to check on my heart rate regularly.”

Oscar Irvine, aged 6 from North Staffordshire, is prone to chest infections and viral wheeze three or four times a year. The family started using the digital stethoscope when he was about 3 years old.

When Oscar was younger, he would have a lot of days when he struggled to breathe because of the mucus in his lungs which meant that his parents had to take him on occasions to A&E or the GP surgery.

“When Covid hit we were very reluctant to take Oscar for face-to-face health visits,” said Oscar’s father Richard. “The digital stethoscope was so helpful to us as Dr Aw could monitor Oscar without seeing him in person. You have an App on your phone, you toggle it to the stethoscope and you literally use it as a stethoscope.

“Dr Aw is online so that he can tell us what to do. He can visually see Oscar’s chest intake and outtake of breath. He can also have a look around the ribs to see if there are any problems. It’s very good as he can monitor Oscar’s heart rate and how he is breathing. We can also upload the readings so that Dr Aw can continue to monitor Oscar from a distance not necessarily being online as the same time as us. Then we can make decisions on what action we need to take such as whether Oscar needs to have a steroid or an antibiotic, or if he needs to see the doctor physically.

“The digital stethoscope has been amazing. It has meant that we haven’t had to go near A&E or a GP surgery for 3 years which has helped to protect Oscar from getting Covid on top of the illness that he already had. The technology has always worked and we feel reassured as parents.”

Dr Nigel Sturrock, Regional Medical Director at NHS England in the Midlands, said:

“During the pandemic there was significant local innovation and grassroots improvement activity which benefited patients and often made things simpler for our staff. We are delighted that patients in Staffordshire have been able to benefit from technological innovations such as Fibricheck and the digital stethoscope. We continue to support GPs and local healthcare systems in taking local action and innovating to deliver elective recovery.”



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