A GP practice in Stockport has successfully piloted a groundbreaking new online monitoring service for asthma patients enabling them to better self-manage their condition.

Marple Cottage surgery worked with primary care systems provider EMIS to develop the internet-based service, which allows patients to complete regular reviews of their condition from home without having to always attend the surgery.

Around 20 patients are currently trialling the system, which allows them to check their condition against a protocol online and, if necessary, complete and securely return an asthma assessment form to the practice.

Once the form is received it is reviewed by the practice asthma lead, who securely files it in the patient’s record and creates a new personalised self-management plan (SMP). The patient is then able to view the new SMP online whenever they want.

As well as providing a more convenient service to patients, the practice hopes that enabling people to monitor their own health will ultimately improve patient self-care and health awareness, and, in the long term, hopefully reduce emergency hospital admissions.

Practice manager Johan Taylor said: “This service is an extension of the personalised self-management plans that are already offered in the surgery, but, in line with the national patient choice initiative, it is another alternative to how the patient can communicate with the practice. ‘Online reviews’ are particularly beneficial for patients who find it difficult to attend the surgery for their asthma reviews during working hours.

 “While it frees up appointment times for the practice, a far more important benefit is that it engages patients directly in their own healthcare.

The asthma monitoring service has already been recognised after having been voted overall winner of the 2007 NHS Health Informatics Accolade awards – and has opened up the possibility of providing similar services for patients with other long-term conditions.

“We were delighted to win national recognition for the scheme at the NHS Accolade awards as this has been a project we have been wanting to take forward for several years. Working with EMIS has enabled us to do this, combining technical skills with ground level knowledge of what patients want.”

The remote monitoring service was made possible thanks to development work by EMIS to extend the functionality of its EMIS Access internet system. Patients complete the asthma assessment form using the EMIS Access system, and can view their new SMP via EMIS’s Medical Record Viewer system. The patients’ notes about their condition are securely filed in their electronic medical record.

Sean Riddell, EMIS Healthcare managing director, commented: “This is a great example of how a forward-thinking practice and a supplier can work together to develop a new service for the benefit of patients.”