More than 1,200 patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), under the Wessex Kidney Centre at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU), have been using the MyRenalCare app for the last 12 months as part of a trial delivering routine care virtually to reduce patient travel time and increase clinic capacity for new and urgent patients.
The web-based app, funded by the NHS X Digital Health Partnership, allows people to monitor their own health, recording their blood pressure symptoms and weight, and have virtual routine check-ups with their consultant.
CKD patients have travelled 5,500 fewer miles by receiving virtual care in their own homes, and referrals for new patients with kidney diseases are down from 3 months to 3 weeks.
Phil West has had three kidney transplants and has been on and off dialysis for more than a decade due to IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, which causes inflammation of the kidneys. As part of routine check-ups he would normally have to attend Queen Alexandra Hospital every three to four months, taking time out of his family life. The 55-year-old from Chichester said: “The MyRenalCare App has really given me control over how I feel. I can report my symptoms if I am not feeling great or ask questions about my medication. It takes out that necessity of coming to the hospital, which saves time and money, and it helps you to control your disease.”
In 2021, more than 15,000 outpatients appointments at PHU were delivered to people with CKD and an estimated 80% of these were for routine check-ups with individuals who had a stable condition.
Dr Nick Sangala, kidney consultant at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust and CEO of MyRenalCare, said: “With ever-increasing demand on our services, we wanted to transform the way we deliver our outpatient care. The MyRenalCare app has helped more than 1,200 of our patients directly with managing their own condition, and meant that other patients waiting for referrals or urgent appointments are waiting less time, which means more positive health outcomes for all our patients. Celebrating the one-year mark of this project on World Kidney Day (9 March) is fantastic and we hope that this positive digital health solution will be able to support more patients in future.”
Kidney Care UK helped fund the project and has been supporting patients to understand and use the new app as part of their care.
Laurie Cuthbert, Director of Fundraising, Marketing & Communications at Kidney Care UK, said: “When you have a long-term and chronic health condition like kidney disease, this comes with the knowledge that you will need to have regular medical check-ups for many years. That can be hard to fit around everyday life, and with the ongoing risks that many kidney patients face in relation to Covid-19 and seasonal illnesses like flu, people are much more aware of infection risk and many worry about going to hospital appointments in case that exposes them to illness. MyRenalCare allows people with kidney disease to really engage with their care and help understand their condition more whilst enabling them to live their lives to the full and empowers patients to take better control of their lives around their CKD.“
Corinne Elliot has polycystic kidney disease and has been cared for by Dr Robert Lewis at Queen Alexandra Hospital for more than 20 years. She started using the MyRenalCare app last year. She said: “The improvements I have seen in my kidney care have been brilliant. The renal team at PHU are researching all the time and they are at the forefront of everything. I think they have really changed my life and my perception of kidney disease so I am very grateful to them.”
Dr Robert Lewis added: “It is fantastic to hear the differences it has made for our long-term patients and the way they can take more control over their own care and get some of their life back.
“One of our oldest patients on the app is 89 years old and they are so thrilled with the difference it has made for them. We know that virtual care isn’t for everyone but due to the app’s success we have more capacity for face-to-face consultation for those that want it and those that need it.”
Throughout the project, researchers at the University of Portsmouth studied the behavioural change factors of moving both patients and staff to a virtual care setting as part of the SIGHT (Supporting Innovation and Growth in Healthcare Technologies) programme. The business support project, led by the University of Portsmouth in conjunction with Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust and the Wessex CRN, helps small to medium businesses to network with clinicians and academics on new healthcare innovations.