A Bradford GP and an Airedale Hospital consultant have created an online care planning service for patients with long-term conditions.

GP Dr Shahid Ali and hospital consultant Dr Richard Pope are two founders of Dynamic Health Systems and worked with two designers to develop Virtucare.

Virtucare is a web-based service that allows patients to monitor their success through personal goal setting.

TPP has announced a partnership with the start-up company, which means VirtuCare will link with SystmOne and display long term conditions information from the medical record to the patient.

This is done in bubble form, with bigger bubbles indicating something is more life-affecting.

Patients use tabs to select goals and how they want to achieve them. Goals must be approved by a GP, who sets boundaries to be monitored with an alert system if the patient strays outside them, potentially avoiding costly hospital or out-of-hours visits.

Patients log in to Virtucare from home to enter readings – for example their weight, if they have a weightloss goal – and this data can be seen by their GP when they log-in to the system.

The GP then decides what information inputted by the patient they want to add to their records.

Patients can also link with other patients using a social media tool and can email their clinicians. Dr Ali said the aim is to ultimately make telemedicine consultations available via the service.

Dr Ali described the impact on the GP-patient relationship as “transformational.”

“The integration allows both DHS and TPP to build a service which is actually world class, nowhere in the world will you have a system like this,” he said.

He became convinced of the benefits of engaging patients in their care after conducting a trial at his Bradford practice.

He introduced care planning for 50 patients and tracked their use of health services in the year before the trial and the year of the trial. Patients set their own goals and actions and were provided with information and support to manage their conditions.

Dr Ali found the patient’s use of the practice, outpatients, A&E and emergency admissions all reduced. Overall, there was a 40% reduction in service utilisation costs.

From this project, he went on to help develop Virtucare and 30 patients from his practice are currently using it. Any patient with a long term condition and access to the Internet is offered the service and 90% have taken it up so far.

He is in the process of analysing early results and findings will be published.

Dr Ali believes the new service can make a significant impact on health service utilisation and hopes to make it available to GPs nationwide. He said it can potentially integrate with any GP system.

DHS are also working to make Virtucare available on smartphones and digital television to extend its reach into the community.