Patients in Widnes are benefitting from a new digital health pathway for heart health, that is designed to ensure the safety, clinical and system effectiveness of heart health apps, and the consistent distribution of them across the region.

The digital care pathway has been co-created with funding by Boehringer Ingelheim UK & Ireland. Over three months, teams from NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, Widnes Primary Care Network and ORCHA (Organisation for the Review and Care of Health Apps) assessed, critiqued and selected the most appropriate apps to be included in the Digital Care Pathway for Heart Health.

It will then be used by health and care professionals across primary, secondary and tertiary care to identify the most appropriate apps to prescribe to their patients as a digital adjunct to treatment. By doing so, it aims to improve outcomes for patients.

Vani Manja, country managing director and head of human pharma at Boehringer Ingelheim UK & Ireland, said: “This project was led by a deep understanding from heart failure patients and clinicians themselves about their experiences and we collaboratively generated solutions that underpin this new pathway. I am hopeful that we can improve the experience and outcomes for patients across heart failure pathways, with a view to offering it more widely in other regions.”

Both the pathway and the apps featured in it are held in NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s Digital Health Formulary – a single platform where staff can quickly find and recommend an app to a patient. Once a healthcare professional has prescribed a tool, the patient will receive a text or email with a link to download the app and access it via a website.

Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO of ORCHA, said: “Increasing the adoption of digital health is the key to creating a more sustainable healthcare system and has vast potential to save lives. All apps available have been assessed and approved against ORCHA’s standards, so they are only directed to quality-assured tools and this ensures the most effective are recommended consistently across the system.”

The digital health pathway will help to give confidence to healthcare professionals on the efficacy of the apps prescribed. Currently, there are over 350,000 digital health technologies on the market – including those that claim they can prevent, diagnose, educate and monitor heart health. But not all apps available met quality thresholds, according to ORCHA. Another issue identified by the organisation is that while healthcare staff believe digital health interventions can improve patient care, few have received training in them.

GP and heart failure lead in Widnes, Dr Henry Chan, said: “We are delighted to introduce this innovative digital pathway for heart health to recommend the most appropriate digital tools to support patients throughout their care journey.”