An article published today in the Yorkshire Post highlights how collaboration between the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and healthteach company Healthy.Io is helping to make a real difference for patients, supporting the NHS greener agenda and realising pressure on frontline staff
Thousands of people living with diabetes across West Yorkshire are using pioneering new technology available via the NHS to test for chronic kidney disease at home, without needing to visit their GP practice, thanks to an app which turns an ordinary smartphone camera into a clinical-grade medical device.
The Minuteful Kidney test – created by healthtech company Healthy.io – enables home-based urine testing, which is critical for picking up early signs of chronic kidney disease, a complication of diabetes dubbed ‘the silent killer’, which affects around 1.8 million people in the UK.
Since being rolled out by the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership last year, over 11,600 people with diabetes have used the Minuteful Kidney test. These tests taken to date have the potential to detect almost 1,500 additional cases of chronic kidney disease that would otherwise have gone undetected, while enabling the local NHS to potentially save £8.6 million over the next five years.
One in ten people in the UK suffer from chronic kidney disease — a long-term condition where the kidney function gradually declines — with under-diagnosis leading to 40,000 premature deaths a year.
Known as the ‘silent killer’ because it is asymptomatic until it has reached an advanced stage, chronic kidney disease is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It can also cause kidney failure, and sufferers may eventually need dialysis and a possible transplant – complications which cost the NHS in England around £1.5 billion every year to treat.
As a leading risk factor for chronic kidney disease people living with diabetes take a urine test to monitor the albumin to creatinine ratio (ACR) as part of their annual diabetes review. The test can help detect early signs of chronic kidney disease, so patients can then receive guidance on lifestyle changes and medication to help slow progression or stop it getting worse. In 2020, only 45% of people living with diabetes in England had their annual urine ACR test. In West Yorkshire, 50% of people living with diabetes had their test and this digital service is designed to increase this further.
Since the programme started last year, 110 GP practices across West Yorkshire have rolled out the Minuteful Kidney testing service, with 11,679 at-risk patients already tested for chronic kidney disease who hadn’t previously tested within 12 months.
According to modelling based on an independent peer-reviewed health economics study, the tests taken so far can help GP practices in West Yorkshire detect an estimated 1,473 additional cases of chronic kidney disease that would otherwise have gone undetected. With the appropriate follow up in place, the tests could also help avoid 148 cases of end stage renal disease and 38 deaths over the next five years, while creating the opportunity for to potentially save £8.6 million.
Dr Waqas Tahir, Clinical Diabetes Lead for the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership said: “The Healthy.io ACR testing programme has made it easier to obtain urinary ACR results from patients – particularly from those who might find it difficult to urinate into a small pot and embarrassing to hand-in at reception. Patients can carry out the test at home reducing the need to come into the practice, which many have been reluctant to do during COVID. Many patients with type 2 diabetes who have taken part have returned a test for the first time in 12 months. This has helped to identify people who may have early stage chronic kidney disease who would otherwise have gone undetected – helping to bridge the kidney health gap and improve outcomes across the region.”
“Chronic kidney disease is a silent killer and has a major impact on society yet very few people are aware of its dangers,” said Katherine Ward, Chief Commercial Officer of Healthy.io. “Thanks to the collaboration with the NHS, our test has already helped early detection of thousands of cases of the disease in England, helping the NHS save money and more importantly ensuring some people avoid the horror of dialysis, transplant or cardiac events”.
Neville Young, Director of Enterprise and Innovation at the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, said: “We’ve been working in partnership with Healthy.io and NHS organisations across the region to support the adoption and spread of Minuteful Kidney for the past three years now. Innovations like this are critical to improving patient outcomes and also addressing health inequalities by looking at ways to engage with all communities and ensuring they can receive the care they need. Now that this innovation has been tested on a larger scale by West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, we’re starting to see really significant benefits both for patients and for the NHS organisations who have been involved with the programme.
“Our work with Healthy.io is a perfect example of how, working with industry, we have been able to make a significant contribution to the speed and scale at which innovation has been adopted by our health and care systems. It also highlights the importance of working with companies like this and the NHS to help identify and scale up innovations that can make a real difference to patient care.”
One 74-year-old patient in Bradford recently described their experience as: “It was simple and easy. The app was straightforward. I think it’s better than going to the diabetic clinic.”