Created in January 2015, Cardiologist’s Kitchen is an innovative solution set up by Dr Ali Khavandi, an Interventional Consultant Cardiologist. Originally a blog, it began after Dr Khavandi realised he was spending an increasing proportion of his professional life talking to patients about dietary changes that could make a profound difference to their cardiovascular health. The Cardiologist’s Kitchen blog then became an outlet to support those conversations and to provide an online free resource for patients.
Cardiologist’s Kitchen caught the eye of both the food industry and the media and Dr Khavandi soon began to be known as a kind of ‘Cooking Cardiologist’. It became clear that the glossy mainstream media and the marketing strategies of the food industry were far better at reaching our patients and the public than any medical initiative. There was a lot to learn from these industries and Cardiologist’s Kitchen aimed to try the same tactics but in a positive way from within healthcare and based on robust evidence.
The blog started to rapidly increase in popularity and Dr Khavandi began to develop a more universal project. Wider support was needed and initial conversations with the food industry and inertia within healthcare were frustrating – positive feedback but a limited appetite to do something new (despite the frequent use of the word ‘innovation’ in both industries). At the same time a portfolio was being gathered of patient success stories; conditions getting better, tablet burden reducing, quality of life improving and a general message asking: ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us this stuff before?’ It was important that something was done.
However, medical information and advice even where available are not enough. We needed real life solutions and to bring together elements from glossy mass media (who are successful at communication), the food industry (who provide the ingredients but are better at manipulating behaviour towards low cost or high margin products) and healthcare (who need to move on from boring and outdated initiatives).
Towards the end of 2015 a more detailed plan was advanced and Dr Khavandi applied to The Health Foundation for a National Innovation Award. Following several rounds of applications and and interview we were successful in being selected by The Health Foundation for an award. Since then the focus has been on developing and evolving that plan, which commenced with the appointment of a project manager.
Cardiologist’s Kitchen: the story of our 15-month project
Left to right: Project Lead – Dr Ali Khavandi, Head Chef – Steve Mercer, Project Manager – Mary Anne Fifield, RGN
Mary and Ali are based at Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust and the project was funded by The Health Foundation.
Overview: Most NHS strategies for reducing cardiovascular disease focus on treating the consequences. The 15-month Cardiologist’s Kitchen initiative focused on the underlying causes: diet and lifestyle and it specifically targeted interventions for hypertension.
The problem: Hypertension affects a third of the adult population and is now the main risk-factor leading to death in the UK. Part of a growing trend towards premature ‘metabolic’ conditions, driven by diet and lifestyle, hypertension costs the NHS over £2billion pounds every year. Related metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes cost £14billion per year and now equates to 10% of the NHS budget. These conditions have traditionally been medicated but since the modern demographic is related to lifestyle, is there a better way to address this growing health challenge?
The intervention: Patients were engaged through two primary channels; a physical ‘CardioKIT’ pack via a healthcare professional at the point of review (like an NHS Health Check at a GP Practice) and direct modern media communication on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
These then triggered a pathway of recycling touch points through this central digital platform, www.cardiologistskitchen.com Ongoing engagement in the process was encouraged through attractive information, special recipes or incentives such as links and offers to local food producers/outlets. This was all supported through regular personalised communication from Mary and Ali via newsletters and social media. Workshops and events brought together a variety of healthcare professionals, patients, chefs and people interested in heart health.
The results: Patient feedback has been universally positive. In fact, the stories which are emerging are some of the most inspirational seen in our medical careers and really highlight both the physical and psychological impact to patients who feel empowered to take control of their own health. The CardioKIT process is different from traditional healthcare, but the project has shown that this style of approach should be the new standard. We asked a sample of patients what changed for them;
‘A year ago, my BP was dangerously high – it is now below 120/80! Also, I have lost 3 stone 7 pounds in 10 months.’
‘I have lower blood pressure but most significantly my HbA1c has gone from a concerning 88% to 58%, moving towards being considered no longer Diabetes Type 2 … now 46%!’
A very happy CardioKit patient
Read many more inspirational stories from patient on our STORIES page.
Lessons learned: As we would expect, the main challenge to innovation and change has been the historical NHS structure, systems and current financial pressures. The key to success for us has been the strength and passion of our team and development of a wider network.
Next steps: Now that we have established a strong platform and we have some momentum, the next step is to sustain the project in its current format. It is clear to us that the best path for long-term success will be implemented through the NHS but incubated and run through an outside partner … so watch this space!
A big ‘THANK YOU!
’ to you all for your support throughout the 15-month innovation and for helping us to make it so successful and we hope you will share this website with others who may find it helpful – www.cardiologistskitchen.com
For now, Mary and Ali look forward to whatever comes next in Cardiologist’s Kitchen.