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July 19, 2023

‘We love it. Patients love it. We see this as the future’: Q&A with Dr Bharan Kumar

In 2020, Clinical Director of SHAPE Primary Care Network Dr Bharan Kumar started using Accurx’s patient questionnaires and batch messaging to improve hypertension outcomes. We recently caught up with Bharan to hear how Accurx has helped his team to control blood pressure readings by 19% and cut the time spent contacting hypertension patients by 75%. You can also read our full SHAPE PCN case study here.

Q: Could you tell us how you came to use Accurx batch messaging and Floreys for hypertension patients?

A: Towards the end of 2020, my team and I were asking ourselves how we could use technology to really improve our management of long-term conditions. We wanted to start with hypertension. Poorly controlled or undiagnosed hypertension can lead to cardiovascular disease, including strokes, MIs and premature death.

We held the belief that there were lots of patients with blood pressure monitors but we weren’t capturing their data. So we looked through our hypertension list and looked for patients who were known to have hypertension, who are diabetic or who previously had a cardiovascular disease event and needed their blood pressure checked. 

We identified this group of patients and we sent them a very simple message using Accurx. It just said, “If you have a blood pressure machine at home, please send us a reading, or book in to have your blood pressure checked.” We were overwhelmed with the response.

Q: How many responses did you receive?

A: In the Bharani Medical Centre and Ragstone Road Surgery we received around 650 responses within the first two weeks. I was responding to patients using Accurx between appointments. It was really satisfying and efficient.

If the patient’s blood pressure was high or not-to-target, I could send them a standardised text in response asking for three readings taken a minute apart. Or if we weren’t sure whether their anti-hypertensive medications needed increasing, we’d ask them to monitor it over four to seven days. Accurx has a set template for them to do that.

Controlled blood pressure levels at Ragstone Road Surgery and Bharani Medical Centre

Q: What was the impact for you and your practices?

A: We saw a 19% in controlled blood pressure across our patients with hypertension. Following this project, 79% of hypertensive patients showed controlled blood pressure readings – compared to the wider ICS average of 61.3%. This has helped up to our QOF targets for hypertension three months quicker than we used to.

Another significant thing is that this work allowed patients to directly respond to me, entering the blood pressure reading provided. They’d come straight through to my inbox in Accurx. They didn’t have to contact reception, block phone lines or go to a generic email inbox – which would then have to be managed by an admin team-member.

Instead, I got the readings in real time – and they were all automatically SNOMED coded. I could also assign messages to other members in my team. So if there was a patient where I thought that the blood pressure was high and they needed a face-to-face review, I could just assign this to a Clinical Pharmacist, Nurse or a Healthcare Assistant who would manage this. 

In the old days, patients had to come in and see someone for their blood pressure to record it, or they might have to give it to a receptionist over the phone. Needless to say, all of this requires time and resources. I firmly believe that this new way of managing hypertension via Accurx results in better outcomes for patients. For me as a GP, it’s also far more satisfying because I’m seeing the patients who need to be seen and I’m managing the patients who need to be managed. That’s what it’s all about – getting the right patient seen at the right time by the right clinician. Accurx allows us to do that. 

Q: What do you think is the wider significance of this work you’ve led and the use of Accurx for long-term condition management?

A: Well, we realised within a few weeks of doing this that something special happened – we’d driven a powerful change. We realised that we can use what we’ve learnt to create a more efficient way of managing long-term conditions and keeping them under control. In the case of hypertension, what we’re essentially looking for is normal blood pressure readings. And if they are high, we need to be able to pick up on them early and efficiently so that we can deal with them.

It just shows the magic of this simple technology. Particularly in deprived areas such as those covered by my PCN, we really have to reach people that we haven’t been able to reach in the past. We need to find novel ways of doing that if we’re going to address the serious health inequalities that are so prevalent today.

We now have more means at our disposal to do that – software like Accurx – which equips us with the information we need to make clinical decisions quickly and safely. Features like patient questionnaires and batch messaging also free up capacity so we can dedicate proper face-to-face time to those who need to be seen in person.

For us at SHAPE PCN, this is the new normal. This technology gives us the opportunity to manage patients really well remotely and safely. We love it. Patients love it. We see this as the future for us to build on.

Find out how you can use patient questionnaires to improve QOF scores, save time and better manage long-term conditions.