Blood pressure monitoring and the COVID-19 pandemic

Blood pressure monitoring has always been an important part of general practice and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) is now one of the key services delivered in primary care.

It has been found that those patients whose treatment is based on ABPM, rather than conventional blood pressure measurement (CBPM), often require less intensive treatment. ABPM has also been found to reflect treatment effect more accurately than CBPM. This means that successfully providing these services in primary care is now crucial to the effective monitoring of hypertension in many thousands of patients.

COVID-19 pandemic and ABPM testing

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the delivery of ABPM services in many GP practices. A large number of the diagnostic services provided by GP practices were halted near the start of the pandemic and ensuring patient safety will be key to restoring these services in the future.

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) have always been a key priority for the NHS. They occur across a wide range of clinical conditions and can affect people of all ages. It is estimated that around 300,000 patients every year in England acquire a HCAI as a result of care within the NHS.

The additional infection control consideration of COVID-19 has only added to the complexity of ensuring patients are safe and protected from infection when having these types of tests.

Reinstating ABPM testing in primary care will require both the addition of new procedures and policies, such as the quarantining of certain rooms and additional cleaning and disinfection policies, but also the use of new equipment and services to enable the effective monitoring of hypertension in patients. 

Disposable accessories for blood pressure measurement

The use of disposable accessories has previously been found to help reduce the risk of HCAIs in many healthcare settings. Reusable blood pressure cuffs have been shown to be a major source of bacterial contamination and play a role in the spread of HCAIs in hospitals and other healthcare locations. 

Cotton disposable sleeves are a simple and cost-effective way of improving hygiene and comfort for the patient when performing blood pressure measurement. They are worn underneath the blood pressure cuff to provide a barrier between the cuff and the patient’s skin, significantly improving the experience for patients. 

In those cases where patients are at a greater risk, disposable blood pressure cuffs can be used to reduce the risk of infection even further. These one-use cuffs are available for our IEM Mobil-O-Graph ABPM in a range of sizes. They provide the same level of comfort and accuracy as regular blood pressure cuffs but can be disposed of when finished with by the patient. This helps to reduce the risk of cross-infection from contaminated accessories even further.

Remote blood pressure monitoring

For those instances where patients are unable to attend the surgery, or are believed to be at the highest risk of infection, effective remote blood pressure monitoring is now a practical and cost effective alternative.

The IEM Tel-O-Graph blood pressure monitor is able to automatically transmit blood pressure measurements securely from the patient’s home to the GP practice or clinic via an integrated SIM card. This means a patient's blood pressure can be monitored remotely by the clinician.

The service is cost effective for practices and clinicians can send alerts and notifications directly to the patient advising them of a range of information, such as the need to order additional medication or making changes to their treatment plans.

 

Sources

Beard, MA, McIntyre A, Roundtree PM. “Sphygmomanometers as a Reservoir of Pathogenic Bacteria.”  The Medical Journal of Australia.  October 1969; 2: 758-60.

Cormican, MGM, Lowe DL, Flynn P, O’Toole D. “The Microbial Flora of In-use Blood Pressure Cuffs,” Irish Journal of Medical Sciences.  1994; 4: 112-113.

de Gialluly, C, Morange V, de Gialluly E, Loulergue J, van der Mee N, Qeuntin R. “Blood Pressure Cuff as a Potential Vector of Pathogenic Microogranisms: A Prospective Study in a Teaching Hospital.”  Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.   September 2006; 27(9).

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring - https://www.gponline.com/ambulatory-blood-pressure-monitoring/cardiovascular-system/article/1408835