Dr Tracey Vell MBE: Innovation in Valve Disease: Implementing Technology to Improve the Patient Pathway

Last week Health Innovation Manchester welcomed Heart Valve Voice, a UK charity that aims to address the under-diagnosis and under-treatment of heart valve disease, to Citylabs in Manchester where industry and clinicians where invited to partake in a round-table discussion. 

Our Clinical Director, Dr Tracey Vell MBE chaired the session, which raised some key issues and initial discussions around innovative technology. 

Last Thursday I was delighted to have the pleasure of welcoming Heart Valve Voice, the UK’s dedicated Heart Valve Disease charity, to CityLabs for a roundtable meeting focussing on innovation in valve disease care. The event was well attended by both healthcare professionals and industry representatives, who together discussed and debated the best way to improve patient experience and outcomes.

At Health Innovation Manchester we strive to deliver innovation into frontline care at pace and scale, thanks to our £6bn devolved health and social care system, unrivalled digital assets and ambitions, exceptional academic and research capability, and thriving industry partnerships. Our commitment to transforming the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester’s 2.8 million citizens means we are the perfect partner for Heart Valve Voice, helping it achieve its mission to improve care and treatment for heart valve disease patients.

Heart valve disease affects around 1.5 million people above the age of 65 and there is significant fragmentation and unwanted variation in the quality of care across the country. In 2017 Heart Valve Voice worked to identify priority areas for focus within heart valve disease care and the subsequent report, Towards a Heart Healthy Future: A Gold Standard in the Diagnosis, Treatment and Management of Heart Valve Disease in Adults, set out a series of quality statements and recommendations for the management of heart valve disease. One key recommendation resulting from the project was the need to identify how innovation could be leveraged to improve patient care across the pathway. This then, was the focus of our meeting.

Throughout the discussion, a key issue repeatedly arose: that data is not being shared consistently across the patient pathway. As a result, diagnostic tests are often repeated, as clinicians are unable to access results from their colleagues, leading to a longer time to treatment for patients. . Delegates discussed a number of ways to overcome this; one particularly exciting idea was the introduction of a valve disease history app where patients would be able to store their treatment history on their phones. Through putting the data in the hands of the patient, they would be empowered to share results with their different clinicians from across the pathway, ensuring continuity of care and faster access to vital interventions.

Another way to speed up treatment times is via teleconference appointments. By allowing patients the chance to discuss their symptoms from home via the internet with a valve disease specialist, the tests patients need to undertake when they visit the hospital can be predetermined. This means that the process can be streamlined, and in the best case scenario, reduce treatment times from 55 to 21 weeks.

In addition to discussing future innovations, we were also treated to a demonstration of a technological advance that is rapidly being developed in attempt to improve diagnosis. Scientists from the University of Cambridge are producing mobile based technology, linked to a stethoscope, which can detect a murmur with 93% accuracy. The device utilises artificial intelligence and machine learning to boost accuracy rates, and is intended to be used as a screening device to help refer patients for an echocardiogram, should a murmur be presenting as a cause for concern. These innovative technologies are the future of heart valve disease care, and with a more advanced version of the technology in the pipeline, many patients will benefit from earlier diagnosis.

Of course, while innovations across the pathway mean that more people with heart valve disease can be identified, a number of attendees expressed concern about the ability of our existing system to manage an increase in the diagnosed patient population. An informative discussion about the potential consequences of technology leading to a large influx of new patients being sent into the healthcare system followed, and Health Innovation Manchester will be working in partnership with Heart Valve Voice to engineer solutions to this problem as they move forward with testing innovative technology in real world scenarios.

Overall, the meeting was a great success and I am excited to be a part of future innovation projects within heart valve disease, especially the University of Cambridge app. Embracing innovation is key to improving treatment and care for patients, and I am looking forward to working with Heart Valve Voice to deliver this for valve disease patients.

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