Why should I be interested in VitruCare?
You will know, from all the interest in the media and perhaps also from your personal experience, that healthcare is changing. This is partly because the increasing demands on the NHS mean that it cannot continue to work in the same way it has done in the past. And partly because there is growing evidence that these “traditional” ways of working, typically in clinics where clinical staff “tell” you how to look after yourself, may by themselves not give the best outcomes for people with long term health issues. A number of new approaches have emerged in recent years and VitruCare is one that is both attracting a lot of interest.
VitruCare is of interest to people who have one, or more than one health issue. An example might be someone who has diabetes, raised blood pressure and some kidney trouble. Or a person who deals with multiple conditions at the same time. This is becoming very common and is recognised as being one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS right now. Or a person who would like to stay in charge of making choices and stay informed about the care being provided by several organisations at the same time. Or people caring for others. There are many uses.
So what is VitruCare?
VitruCare is a service that is prescribed for you by your GP and delivered to you using the internet. You can use VitruCare from any internet connected device, such as a PC, laptop or tablet computer or a smartphone. It is an approach that has been developed over a number of years by senior doctors who have a great deal of experience of helping people who have long term health issues. Over the years, the new way of working has been shown to improve the health of those using the service.
The whole idea behind VitruCare is that the person most closely involved in managing a particular long term health issue is the person who actually has that issue. That, of course, is “you”.
By helping you to make choices that are relevant to you as a person and not just to the conditions you may have, VitruCare allows you to be in charge of how things are – to regain control over how your health is progressing and gain a real ability to influence this. What seems like a simple change in the way you are involved in your own care has allowed many people to make a real improvement in their health, as indicated by blood tests and things like blood pressure, and other measures used by doctors.
Of course, working in this way is not something you do on your own. Your healthcare team follows your progress. To encourage and support you as you move forwards - arranging to see you when necessary, rather than just when your next “routine” appointment is due.
Over the years, patients using this way of working have seen that they do not need to see their GPs as often as they used to. Because patients work with their GP on solving a particular problem or concern in the way that fits the person’s life, because health has improved, because the GP is aware of what has happened in the meantime, because the GP has supported patients to continue to be in control of their care. The GP is more of a coach, than a ‘fixer’. Knowing that the team is there and that you can contact them without delay is reassuring. And there are better things to do in life than waiting for appointments.
So what do I actually do?
You use VitruCare to see, using an easy to understand display, how your health is being influenced by a range of things relating to your lifestyle. With this information in mind, you use the service to identify goals - things that matter to you - along with approaches that you would like to use to achieve these goals. If your health stands in the way of achieving these goals, you make practical plans for actions you can do yourself to improve things. VitruCare will guide you as you work through what it is you might choose to do. And with your GP you can discuss support that would help to follow through on these actions.
It’s up to you to choose approaches that you feel will work for you – and there is a “safety check” built in to this way of working that means your healthcare team have to agree that what you plan to do will be clinically safe for you .
Having chosen your goal and plan, you can follow your progress as you move towards achieving your goal – once again guided as you do so by the VitruCare service.
You can also see helpful hints and tips in the form of blogs from experts, understand how people like you have chosen to look after themselves and discover for yourself facts about your health conditions, using reliable and relevant sources of medical information.
Is this going to take a lot of time?
No, not at all – keeping track of your progress takes just a few seconds – and it is really motivating to see yourself heading towards your goal!.
I hear a lot these days about internet security – is my information safe?
This is of course a critical question – VitruCare uses industry leading software to make sure your personal information is kept securely, working very closely with NHS technical specialists and using the very same data centres that store information on patients’ health for the NHS. The VitruCare approach complies with the stringent information governance requirements of the NHS.
There’s a lot of talk out there about “Telehealth” – is this the same thing?
Telehealth is actually a “catch all” term that describes a wide range of ways of using technology to support healthcare, but most of the time people think of telehealth as meaning the use of monitors that measure things like blood sugar or blood pressure and then send these results to a monitoring centre, which issues “alerts” to GPs when things go out of range. VitruCare is fundamentally different to this, in that the information displayed is for you, not for “the system”. While your clinical team can see the information on all the patients using VitruCare, this is all about you understanding and acting on your own results, rather than waiting for someone to do this for you. For most of us, that sense of being in control is something that empowers us – particularly when we are working to achieve something that we, not someone else, know is important to us as an individual.
So I don’t need to see my GP any more, then – right?
Wrong. Whilst you most likely will not need to see your GP as often as you did before using VitruCare, you will definitely still need to see them at times when things are perhaps not going so well, or when you need special follow up checks doing that can only be done in the surgery. It is also really important that you understand that VitruCare is not there as an emergency or urgent care service – that’s what the “Out of Hours”, “111” and “999” services are for. In an urgent situation you must continue to use these and other specialist help services – the aim is to help you with reducing the number of occasions you need to seek such help, by supporting you with improving your health and make it as good as it can be at all times.
What do other people who are using VitruCare say about their experience?
Here’s a typical letter one of the GP’s received from a patient – we see people recognising things about their lifestyle by using VitruCare and getting real benefit from taking charge of their future – and as this example shows, there is often an opportunity to work to improve one’s health together with partners or close friends …
“I have been using VitruCare through my GP practice, I first found out about it when I received a letter through the post inviting me to look after my long term condition, I wanted to give it a go as I have high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Sometimes I neglect myself and by doing VitruCare it made me realise that I had to change my life style as I had been eating the wrong foods and also not exercising.
After setting my goals, I started to work on exercising once a week, I now walk four times a week with my wife and we have started to change our diet and our lives are definitely improving. My BP was 168/88 it has now started to drop and my medication has been reviewed with the hope that it will be stopped altogether. My Diabetes is also more in control.
I would say to any patient give VitruCare a go; I went to a patient group which helped me understand more about the service and met other patients like me which was very interesting and rewarding.
Thank you for letting me be part of this scheme.”
Patients speaking about VitruCare
In this video, three patients describe their experience of using VitruCare and how it has helped them achieve their health objectives. VitruCare is produced by Dynamic Health Systems to enable supported selfcare for patients with long term conditions with internet delivered services.
OK – I’m interested – what do I need to do next?
The first thing is to check whether your own practice uses VitruCare – just ask them! If they do, you need to tell your GP practice that you would like to start to look after yourself using this approach. They will have a well thought through plan that will allow them to prescribe VitruCare for you – you will be asked to complete a simple form and will then receive an email with instructions on how to join the VitruCare service at your practice. This is really straight forward and before you know it you will be up and away!
We hope you find VitruCare helps you.