People increasingly use remote medical technologies to keep tabs on their health. We looked at local people’s experience of monitoring their blood pressure from home to see what NHS services can learn.

Summary

High blood pressure (hypertension) if untreated, increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attack and stroke. Around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it. Low blood pressure (hypotension) can also be problematic and may need medical intervention. The only way to accurately find out if your blood pressure is too high or too low is to have your blood pressure checked.

Blood pressure monitors are one of the many fast-growing solutions that can help people monitor and improve their health in the comfort of their own homes.

NHS Digital asked Healthwatch England to help them understand peoples’ experiences of remote blood pressure monitoring and how GPs use their blood pressure readings, to evaluate their remote blood pressure monitoring pilot programme, BP@Home.

Healthwatch Gloucestershire worked with local Healthwatch in four other areas (Darlington, Hampshire, Hammersmith and Fulham, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire) to help people share their experiences. The 60 people from Gloucestershire who took part said similar things to those in other areas of the country, around 500 in total.

People told Healthwatch that there are many benefits to blood pressure monitoring at home, including peace of mind, feeling in control of their own health, and convenience. But there are questions about whether the real benefits of better health outcomes are being realised.

Healthwatch in Gloucestershire and other areas found there are gaps in GP processes that negatively impact patients’ experiences. This is demotivating for people and means opportunities to address blood pressure problems could be missed. They also found that access to and confidence in using digital technologies can be a barrier for some people.

Some of the things highlighted from people’s feedback

  • People use blood pressure monitors at home for many reasons – not just when advised by medical professionals.
  • The experiences of those prompted by their GP to use a monitor at home fall short in many ways.
  • People were not given enough information about how to use their monitors.
  • Many people are not submitting readings regularly.
  • When people do submit readings, they often don’t hear back from their GP.
  • People are willing to continue monitoring blood pressure remotely but have ideas on how the NHS can improve support.

Steps to improve support

Healthwatch have reviewed feedback from people in Gloucestershire and other areas and made a series of recommendations, including steps the NHS can take to improve support and outcomes for people who monitor their blood pressure at home. These include:

  • Better information about high blood pressure, so people know why they should monitor their pressure, what ‘normal’ readings look like, how to reduce risks and when to act.
  • Guidance and support around taking and submitting blood pressure readings.
  • Better solutions for submitting readings easily and efficiently.
  • Feedback on submitted readings and provision of ongoing support.
  • Advice on what to do to improve blood pressure.
  • Acknowledge concerns amongst patients and provide access to a GP if required.

Participants are mostly able, willing, and keen to use digital platforms to submit blood pressure readings. They will consider using other forms of remote monitoring if the right processes are in place, including providing information, guidance, feedback, and advice. The NHS can adapt the recommendations above to suit other types of remote medical technology.

Many participants want to take more responsibility for their health and wellbeing, but there needs to be a better partnership between GPs and patients for this to work. The NHS can achieve more by being a partner who helps promote people’s wellness, rather than only focussing on fixing issues once they reach a crisis point.

Read the Healthwatch Gloucestershire report, which includes case studies about local people’s experiences of blood pressure monitoring at home.

Read the full Healthwatch England report which combines findings from five local Healthwatch.

You can share your experiences of any aspect of Gloucestershire’s health and care services with Healthwatch Gloucestershire by calling freephone 0800 652 5193, complete our feedback form online, or email info@healthwatchgloucestershire.co.uk.

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