British Heart Foundation Innovation

A focus on population impact, data and improving patients’ lives

British Heart Foundation is innovating to the core of healthcare delivery


ith a rich history of driv- ing scientific progress, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has for almost 60 years of its existence been

at the forefront of turning cutting-edge research into real-life applications which have transformed people’s lives. Tat focus continues unremittingly in the

modern era and in addition to its long-stand- ing public-facing role, with a nationwide chain of 750 retail stores, the organisation now stands on the cusp of its own digital transformation which is changing the way it develops and delivers services, from the remote monitoring of people with heart-re- lated risk factors, to retinal scans, or genetic testing to predict future cardiac events. Since BHF’s founding in 1961, the charity

has long regarded Scotland – in terms of its size, geography, clinical expertise and ability to gather data from a relatively small collec- tion of NHS health boards (14 in total) – as the ‘perfect test bed’ for many of its pilot programmes; indeed, 54 per cent of the organisation’s annual £70m research budget is spent, per capita, on services and research north of the Border. Te organisation is proud of the fact that two of its ‘world-class’ Centres of Research Excellence are in Scot- land, located at Te University of Edinburgh and Te University of Glasgow. Tis has led to the development of such

initiatives as a remote blood pressure monitoring service, which has been rolled out - in partnership with NHS 24’s Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare, and the Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care Programme - across NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian and NHS Western Isles.

Creating front-line applications which address pressing societal challenges, such as helping the near estimated 30 per cent of Scotland’s adult population who have high blood pressure to live better and longer lives,

goes to the heart of a recent strategic shift which seeks to place patient data in their own hands. Jacob West, a former health policy adviser

to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, is the man charged with leading the organisation into this new data-driven era; as Director of Healthcare Innovation he wants to drive the digital agenda but above all to demon- strate the value proposition for BHF in a 21st Century health and social care model, with ever closer service integration shaping new interactions between clinicians and patients. “I think one of the things that we are

particularly going to focus on is how we demonstrate our impact to patients and the

public that we are really making a differ- ence,” he says. “If you look over the history of the British Heart Foundation, it has played a pivotal role in cardiovascular break- throughs, whether for clot-busting drugs or demonstrating the effects statins can have, to supporting the development of heart trans- plantation, we’ve been there on that journey. However, there’s often a very long lag time for the impact of research to be translated into services, so we want to be able to help people make that connection. Tat’s going to be a big theme for us as we move forward with the new strategy.”

Healthcare is grappling with the challenges and opportunities of emerging data science and artificial intelligence techniques, or ‘machine learning’. Te ability of clinicians to predict likely future cardiac events among specific population cohorts through sophis- ticated algorithmic processes may become the norm in the not-too-distant future; modelling will therefore enable clinicians to intervene in cardiac cases before acute hos- pital-based medicine is required, the current survival rates for which are lower in the UK than in other western European countries. For West, these kind of techniques could have primary benefit to not only patients, but to the health system as a whole. He wants BHF itself to be a ‘learning

“I think one of the things that we are particularly going to focus on is how we demonstrate our impact to patients and the public that we are really making a

difference” Jacob West

organisation’ – like some of the cutting-edge institutions he has observed in the US, such as the Mayo Clinic and the Geisinger Medical Center – and to be able to assist its partners like the NHS to better understand its own data and turn it into patient-focused solutions. “Organisations that are learning organisa-

tions, which use data, test and experiment, and try and continually improve are those that succeed the most; systems that take learning, data and improvement seriously at the organisational level, that’s where it’s really important for the improvement of healthcare. He adds: “But if data is going to be an important part of the solution it’s important that we bring people with us because, fundamentally, research that doesn’t turn into impact on the ground has got limited value; so a big part of our role is building on the BHF’s terrific research base and to try and translate that into practice with the NHS and other partners.” n

NHS70 | SUMMER 2018 | 9

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