25 October 2017

Quicker and more efficient referrals for patients with cardiovascular disease

A new digital system in use in Newham, east London, is enabling cardiologists to share information about their patients with GPs when they leave hospital. This new and innovative digital system has been developed by academics from Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust, facilitated by UCLPartners in collaboration with NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group.

UCLPartners has been key to bringing these healthcare and academic institutions together to find an evidence-based solution to a healthcare communication issue.

The impact is improved communication between patients and healthcare professionals; cardiologists have saved time during consultations with patients; and patients have been able to instantly take home key information relating to their condition.

The Challenge

In 2013, NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) identified the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as a health priority for the area. In the borough over 50% of adults are overweight or obese, 40% are inactive and 10% have high blood pressure; all contributing to a high rate of CVD amongst the Newham population.

Until recently, outdated practices have meant that information from cardiologists about a patient’s diagnosis, investigations and treatment have been communicated back to the patient’s GP using a dictated letter. These letters vary in content and can take days to be delivered. This impacts on both the GP and the patient as it can delay making important changes to the way a patient’s condition is managed.

GP and patient

Facing the challenge

In order to improve the treatment and management of those with cardiovascular disease, UCLPartners began working with Newham CCG, forming the Newham Partnership Programme. Drawing on expertise from partner organisations Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London, the Newham Partnership Programme supported world class research to find innovative ways to improve the communication of information for CVD patients.

What we did

  • Developed a digital template that enables cardiologists to record information about a patient’s diagnosis and treatment in real time.
  • Linked the template with the hospital electronic health record, allowing information to be shared with the patient and GP immediately.

The new digital referral template was piloted in Newham University Hospital with 360 patients and 210 GPs.

John Robson

Making a difference

Dr John Robson of Queen Mary University of London’s Blizard Institute, who led the work to develop the new template said:

“We wanted to create a system that hospital clinicians could use to share information with patients and their GPs quickly and efficiently. The template we have created is speeding up ways of working and enhancing communication. The new referral provides patients with information that they can take home immediately. It helps them to understand their medical condition and empowers them to manage their own health.”

Impact/outcomes

During the pilot of this new and innovative communication system, the digital referral was used in up to 77% of patient appointments.

A survey of patients that benefitted from the use of the system found that:

  • 92% of patients felt the speed in which information was made available to them was beneficial
  • 98% of patients found the report easy to follow

90% of GPs that have used the system reported that the speed that this information was communicated to them was extremely important. Delay in the communication of information can potentially impact on how a patient’s condition is managed.