A jet-setting businessman, diagnosed with heart failure a year ago, has been able to continue his world travels - thanks to a text messaging system linking him to specialist support in Lanarkshire.
Graham Murray from Lanark heads up an international IT trouble-shooting operation, serving major clients in Europe, America and Asia.
Yet the globe-trotting grandfather’s schedule belies a health setback that would otherwise have left him grounded – save for the innovative telehealth system.
“Life, between family and work, is extremely busy - and I love every aspect of it,” explained Graham, 57, who is due to get married to his Vietnamese fiancé, Mai, later this year. “Last year, however, whilst working in England I felt like I was coming down with heavy cold, with symptoms including breathing difficulty.”
As symptoms worsened, and after hospital checks, it was discovered Graham had fluid on his lungs.
“The root cause was a narrowing of the arteries to the heart which meant it wasn’t pumping blood as effectively as it should,” Graham continued.
“I was diagnosed as having heart failure - but when I learned I wasn’t going to die the next day I just wanted to crack on with things.”
Graham’s condition has been managed with medication. And, with the additional text messaging support, he’s been able to continue his intrepid lifestyle. The text system is known as Florence and can help patients, like Graham, who have had hospital treatment for heart failure.
Patients, who can be of any age over 16 years, are equipped and taught how to self-monitor details such as weight and blood pressure. The patient then texts the details to an automated system which has been programmed by specialist nurses with the patient’s specific health details.
Florence replies with advice and information like medication reminders, all based on the latest readings.
Crucially, the system can indentify flare ups at the earliest stage. If any anomalies are detected with the readings, like a rise or drop in blood pressure for example, an automated alert is sent to the patient. A specialist nurse is also alerted - allowing them to respond to offer advice or help by phone, text or arrange medical assistance as necessary.
The innovative scheme is part of the European-wide initiative United4Health, which is geared to using new technology to improve healthcare. NHS Lanarkshire along with North and South Lanarkshire Councils are key partners.
Patient safety is paramount and traditional, clinical care is available as required. In Graham’s case, he receives periodical home visits from heart failure nurse Julie Brown, who is based at Wishaw General Hospital.
The text system supplements these supports and mean patients like Graham aren’t always tied to being in Lanarkshire for routine checks.
Graham explained: “After initial hospital treatment last year I was advised I required weekly checks, including blood pressure and weight. Florence was offered as an alternative, which is obviously far more conducive to my working life.
“Every Wednesday, wherever I am in the world, I send in my readings. So far I’ve sent information from Paris, Milan, Hanoi and New York.
“I see the system as a safety blanket and an international lifeline, all in one. I know it’s there and I can get on with my life - with experts in the background keeping an eye on me.”
Morag Hearty of NHS Lanarkshire and United4Health programme Manager, added: “This is just one of a raft of systems being introduced to get patients more involved in custom designed, personalised healthcare which can only increase independent living.”
To find out more about United4Health and the Florence system, email Morag Hearty on United4.HealthProject@lanarkshire.scot.nhs.uk
• The United for Health initiative, involving NHS Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council comes at a pivotal time. A new Act requires health boards and local authorities to integrate their adult health and social care services.
The integration of health and social care is about local teams of professionals working together – alongside partners including unpaid carers, the third sector and independent sector – to deliver quality care and support.
Janice Hewitt, Chief Accountable Officer for North Lanarkshire Health and Social Care, said: “This is just one example of one of the many innovative initiatives underway to ensure people get the right advice and support in the right place at the right time. Modern technology is increasingly being used in every walk of life and this case demonstrates how we are harnessing it to complement existing resources.”
Harry Stevenson Chief Officer for South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Services like this demonstrate that we are fully focussed on making a real difference to the lives of people in the area, through traditional approaches - and cutting-edge innovation.”
• For more on integration, including films, latest developments and news visit: http://www.nhslanarkshire.org.uk/About/HSCP/Pages/default.aspx
• Telehealth is a communication system that uses text messages to help patients and their health professional monitor and/or manage medical conditions more closely.
• Florence is not an emergency service and patients are advised to contact their GP or NHS24 if they require urgent medical assistance.