Our Hearts Our Minds ‘Fibricheck App’ is a World First for Cardiology Patients in the Western Trust area

04/02/2021

The Western Trust is to become the first healthcare institution in the world to offer its cardiovascular patients a Fitbit smartwatch in combination with an app to detect atrial fibrillation through its innovative Our Hearts Our Minds programme.

Fibricheck is the world’s first validated app for the detection of Atrial Fibrillation (CE mark) using photoplethysmography from the Fitbit device. Worn comfortably on the wrist the patient simply presses the screen of their Fitbit to start a measurement and if an abnormality is detected in their heart rhythm then this is conveyed automatically to the cardiologist who can arrange further tests.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular heart beat and it affects around 37,000 people in Northern Ireland. However, it is estimated that 1-2% of the population may have it and be unaware of it.

It’s an important arrhythmia to detect as it increases the person’s risk of stroke five-fold and prescribing blood thinners to those with AF and other risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressures will significantly reduce their risk of stroke.

The Our Hearts Our Minds programme for Cardiovascular Health is a nurse-led preventive cardiology programme delivered under the Department of Health’s Transformation agenda that supports patients after a cardiovascular event helping them to achieve healthier lifestyles, manage their blood pressure and cholesterol as well as making sure that they are on the right cardioprotective medications.

In May 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic the programme transitioned rapidly to a virtual platform which includes assessment via video/telephone, group virtual education sessions and the provision of a Fitbit smartwatch to patients. Now the programme is also providing Fibricheck to patients who experience palpitations via their Fitbit devices.

Our Hearts Our Minds Programme StaffCommenting on this latest development Dr Susan Connolly, Consultant Cardiologist and Clinical Lead for the Our Hearts Our Minds programme at the Western Trust said: “This is immensely exciting technology and I am delighted that the Western Trust is the first in the world to offer it to their cardiovascular patients in combination with their Fitbit smartwatch.”

Dr Connolly continued: “Patients with cardiovascular disease are a high risk population for atrial fibrillation. This app essentially means our cardiovascular patients who have palpitations can check their heart rhythm in the safety of their own homes and avoid having to attend the hospital for monitoring if the check is normal. It should also help facilitate detection of AF which is important in stroke prevention.”

Karen McCammon, Health Service Engagement Lead at British Heart Foundation NI said: “It is estimated that undiagnosed atrial fibrillation results in around 600 strokes per year across Northern Ireland. This is a good example of wearable technology minimising the impact on health services whilst improving people’s health, as we know that those with cardiovascular disease are more likely to develop AF. However, once this is identified and treated with anticoagulants the stroke risk is reduced by two thirds.”

Case History

Mr Eric Geddes is a 59 year old man from Enniskillen who had open heart surgeryMr Eric Geddes - Our Hearts Our Minds Programme Participant for two severe narrowings in his heart arteries in September 2020. He is now taking part in the Our Hearts Our Minds virtual programme where he was provided with a Fitbit smartwatch at the programme outset. When he found himself experiencing palpitations he was naturally concerned and his Our Hearts Our Minds nurse provided him with a QR code to access the app on his Fitbit.

Mr Geddes said:  “After my surgery, due to COVID, I was very concerned with the thought of having to attend follow up assessments as I felt particularly vulnerable. With Fibricheck I was able to keep an eye on my heart rhythm and with a push of a button my Doctors have all the information they need and are able spot any potential problems without any undue stress or strain for me. The peace of mind that this has given me is priceless.”