Most global healthcare resources are focused on COVID19 and this is largely disrupting the continuum of care for patients with chronic diseases (Chudasama et al., 2020).It has been reported that fear of contacting GPs during the COVID19 outbreak may be fuelling missed diagnoses (The Guardian, 2020). Results from a poll by NHS England, released in April, revealed that 40% of people said they were avoiding contacting their GP because of concerns about burdening the NHS (GPOnline, 2020).
“During a pandemic, other health conditions do not cease to exist, and we’ve seen from health crises in the past that there are sometimes more deaths from conditions unrelated to the pandemic than the virus causing the pandemic itself”Prof. Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs.
Many patients with chronic medical conditions or those undergoing diagnostic or therapeutic procedures require regular blood tests. This is currently performed at a hospital, clinic or GP’s surgery, or in some cases through a visit by a phlebotomist or a district nurse to the patient’s home. Consequently, the requirement for self-isolation and social distancing during the pandemic has resulted in many patients being unable to receive an optimal level of monitoring. Even in non-pandemic times, the current system of contact-based blood testing is very inefficient and wasteful of precious NHS resources. There is consensus amongst healthcare providers that remote patient consultations could be very effective, and are very desirable, but are hampered by the need for contact-based blood testing (Royal College of Physicians, 2018).
There is also an additional, and more fundamental, problem with how we monitor patient blood results. Blood results are reported based on a binary category of normal or abnormal in comparison with population reference values. However, unsurprisingly, the population ‘normal’ ranges are generally very wide. A crude and simplistic binary categorisation of blood results often implies that even when a patient’s blood values move dramatically within the normal reference values, clinicians can dismiss this change if it remains within the range considered to be healthy. Unquestionably, however, significant rapid changes, for example in total White Blood Cell (WBC) count, are likely to have been precipitated by biologically and potentially medically-consequential causes which are currently ignored. There is now strong evidence that even when all other known factors are taken into consideration, changes in immune cell numbers such as WBC count are predictive of risk of disease and death, even in entirely healthy people (Shah et al., 2017; Alpert et al., 2019). In this context, personalised and longitudinal monitoring of a person’s immune system with a tool like Algocyte®, has the potential to generate important insights into health and disease, particularly in the case of vulnerable patients.
Oxford Immune Algorithmics (OIA) aims to support the health care sector and the NHS with Algocyte®, a service that allows clinicians to remotely monitor their patients’ health and immune systems through a Full Blood Count (and possible complementary blood tests).
As part of OIA’s partnership with the NHS, OIA is currently offering service contracts to NHS organisations without charge in order to maximise the patient and societal benefits of this remote blood testing service and help with the increasing demand and accumulated backlog during the pandemic. To this end, we invite organisations to contact us with a description of how immune cell monitoring can help your patients. If appropriate, this service will be subsidised 100% by OIA. Currently, OIA is running pilots at Addenbrooke’s Cambridge University Hospitals and the Medici GP Practice (15,000 patients) in Luton.
Millions could be putting their long-term health at risk by not getting the proper monitoring that their conditions need (UniteLive, 2020) and we believe we are in a position to help.
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- Yogini V. Chudasama et al., Diabetes Metab Syndr, 2020.
- Fear of contacting GPs during Covid outbreak ‘fuelling missed diagnoses’, The Guardian, September 23, 2020.
- Millions of patients ‘avoiding calls to GP’ during COVID-19 pandemic By Nick Bostock, GP Online, April 2020.
- Royal College of Physicians, Outpatients: The Future. Adding Value through Sustainability. 2018.
- Shah et al, BMJ Open 2017.
- Alpert et al, Nature Medicine 2019.
- Millions waiting for tests as NHS backlog builds, UniteLive, Wednesday, 2020