Remote monitoring – Saving Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Lives during Covid-19 and beyond

COVID-19 has adversely affected people’s health across the globe, and many have lost their lives due to complications from having other medical conditions like high blood pressure (HBP) and Type2 diabetes (T2D).

Due to genetics and various other factors, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are more likely to have high blood pressure (HBP) and Type 2 diabetes (T2D) compared to Caucasians, and because of these health conditions, are more susceptible to Covid-19. The UK has 4 million people with T2D. Africans/Africa-Caribbeans are three times more likely and South Asians six times more likely to develop T2D. 50% of T2D sufferers also have high blood pressure and T2D is 3-4 times more likely to occur in black people of African/Africa-Caribbean descent than white people.

HBP and T2D related health issues cost the NHS a staggering £2.1bn every year. Every 10 years, poor monitoring of these diseases causes the loss of 7,000 quality-adjusted UK life years. A sustainable solution is paramount as these losses are avoidable. BAME people are more likely to contract Covid-19 due to a variety of factors like genetics, poverty, use of public transport and as previously mentioned, HBP and T2D. Age and BAME are two of the major contributing factors, and when combined with intergenerational households, the exposure to high risk people by asymptomatic super spreaders is much higher.

Saving money and lives

Preventative and effective treatment of HBP/T2D is desperately needed to reduce the cost of these diseases to the NHS and more critically, avoid BAME deaths. A remote monitoring solution for these two health issues within the BAME population could address inequalities exposed by Covid-19. This will reduce the number of cases that need intervention. Millions of pounds previously spent on the fallout of poor disease monitoring can be saved by the NHS.

mHealth is paramount in getting BAME communities the monitoring and medical treatment they need during the pandemic. But due to factors like language difficulties, religious beliefs and poverty, to name a few, BAME people have not been able to get the help they so desperately need.

mHealth and the BAME community

The CheckUp Health app is the only solution of its kind that focuses on the healthcare sector in the HBP/T2D BAME community that has been impacted by Covid-19. With the mHealth app and website, patients are empowered to manage their own health by monitoring their blood pressure/type 2 diabetes safely from their own homes using remote monitoring devices.

During the pandemic, BAME patients had 20% less access to treatment than before Covid-19, which severely affected their ability to get the Covid-19 treatment they needed. As a result, and because T2D and HBP increases the risk of severe Covid-19 infection, BAME patients have a 10%-50% increased risk of death. The pandemic ultimately exposed the exacerbated longstanding inequalities affecting BAME people in the UK, and their health outcomes are now worse than ever. A second Covid-19 wave is very likely, so the NHS is now under immense pressure to deliver quality real-time care to these groups amidst the pandemic.

Thanks to the app and remote monitoring devices, users can perform many of the tests required for type 2 diabetes /high blood pressure without having to travel and be unnecessarily exposed to Covid-19. This will not only improve the overall health of the BAME community, but also assist the NHS by saving time and about £120m/year (PHE, 2017) if HBP/T2D is managed more effectively.

How does the remote monitoring work?

Healthcare professionals will receive self-monitored data that patients have sent if the data collected by the app moves out of acceptable parameters. There is also an auto-report function that will automatically send alerts to clinicians and healthcare professionals. The app is fast and secure and has been designed by healthcare professionals according to all regulatory standards.

GP appointments for BAME patients will be significantly reduced with the provision of remote monitoring, saving the NHS time and money. The result of this is that the huge backlog of chronic disease patients will be addressed after the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic is over. The project is vital in improving the health of BAME communities which have been over-looked in the past due to various factors. Because of the impact the remote monitoring solution will have on minority groups in the UK, Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, have awarded funding to drive the project forward and make a real impact.

Fungai Ndemera, Director of CheckUp Health, shares the reason she started the project:

“Both my dad and father In-law passed away a week apart due to undiagnosed diabetes. They passed away at a time when we least expected them to, some years back. The memories of their sudden death and the pain left to us and our mothers drove me to research more and want to be part of the people who help solve problems caused by hypertension and diabetes.

“What shocked me in my research is that 415 million people are estimated to be living with diabetes globally, approximately 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population. This figure is projected to increase to 642 million people by 2040.

“According to new NHS research, almost one in three people who have died in hospital in England after testing positive for Covid-19 also had diabetes. The risk is also more pronounced for men, people of black or Asian ethnicity and those in more deprived communities. Those with pre-existing kidney disease, heart failure and previous strokes are also at high risk, regardless of the type of diabetes they have.”

Innovate UK Executive Chair Dr Ian Campbell said:

“In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy.

“CheckUp Health, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”