Software helps prevent heart disease

New computer software allows GPs to more accurately assess which patients are most at risk of developing heart disease.

New computer software that will allow GPs to more accurately assess which patients are most at risk of developing heart disease has been released for clinical use.

QRISK2 uses a new cardiovascular disease (CVD) equation to estimate an individual’s risk of developing the heart condition over the next 10 years and draws on analysis of 15 years’ worth of real primary care data from the UK.

The QRISK2 software is the result of research using QResearch, a large consolidated database derived from the anonymised health records of millions of patients, created as a result of a not-for-profit partnership between Nottingham University and primary care system supplier EMIS, which created the database.

Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Queen Mary and from Bristol and Medway Primary Care Trusts also supported the project.

The release of the software follows an independent validation of the QRISK2 formula in a Department-of-Health-backed study – the third independent study to confirm that it provides a more accurate and fairer assessment of CVD risk than the widely-used Framingham risk equation.

Unlike Framingham, QRISK2 takes into account the higher risk of developing CVD to patients from deprived areas and from certain ethnic groups, particularly those with a south Asian background. It also considers other risk factors, including whether the patient already suffers from a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes.

Prof Julia Hippisley-Cox, of Nottingham University’s Division of Primary Care, said: ‘We believe this formula has the potential to save many thousands of lives by helping clinicians to more accurately predict those at risk of developing cardiovascular disease – the nation’s biggest killer.

‘It will arm doctors with all the information they need to decide how best to target patients with preventative measures such as lifestyle advice and cholesterol-lowering treatments.’

QRISK2 will support government plans for a £250m national cardiovascular screening programme, which will offer checks to everyone between the ages of 40 and 70. Due to be implemented over the next two years, the programme will aim to prevent up to 9,500 heart attacks and strokes and save 2,000 lives a year.

Developed in collaboration with ClinRisk, the QRISK2 software will be incorporated into existing EMIS clinical records systems – used by 56 per cent of GP surgeries in the UK. It will generate a list of patients at high-risk of cardiovascular disease, flagging up to GPs any assessments and interventions that are needed.

The QRISK2 algorithm is also to be made available for further academic research.