GPs to 'prescribe' apps for patients
People could soon be directed to free or cheap apps by their GPs to allow them to monitor and manage their health more effectively.
The latest innovations in smartphone technology will help patients and the public to find and use NHS services, manage conditions and make better lifestyle choices in a way that is very convenient for them.
It follows a call to find the best new ideas and existing smartphone apps that help people and doctors better manage care which received nearly 500 entries and over 12,600 votes and comments.
The most popular app ideas were:
to help manage long-term conditions like diabetes
to help people deal with post-traumatic stress
to track and monitor things like blood pressure
to help people find NHS services on a map
to get practical information about keeping fit and eating healthily
Popular apps include 'Patients Know Best', where each patient gets all their records from all their clinicians and controls who gets access to them. The app means that patients can have online consultations with any member of their clinical team, receive automated explanations of their results, and work with clinicians for a personalised care plan. It has already proved successful with hospitals including Great Ormond Street, UCL and Torbay as well as with GPs and community nurses from across the country who are responding to patients' invitations.
The Diabetes App will also give people with diabetes reminders on checking blood sugar levels and taking medication. It will allow them to monitor, record and track blood sugar information, which can then be sent electronically to their surgery or clinic. The app also uses emerging FoodWiz software to help people control their diabetes or even help those at risk of diabetes to prevent it. It will help patients to control their diet so they can rely less on medication and attending obesity clinics by allowing them to zap an increasing number of barcodes while shopping and get immediate information on the amount of calories, carbohydrates and fats.
The competition identified apps with potentially huge value to patients and the NHS that promote better management of long-term conditions or healthy living. Last month, NHS Choices was visited by 14.5 million people looking for information on health and local services - helping many to get the advice they needed without making an appointment to see their GP. Developing smartphone apps is the next step in giving patients the information and advice they need and want to stay healthy.
At an event showcasing the best ideas for new and existing health smartphone apps, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch. I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.
"Information about your health is a service - just like the GP surgeries, Walk-in Centres and hospitals that millions of people access every week. With more information at their fingertips, patients can truly be in the driving seat.
"Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free."
Martha Lane-Fox, UK Digital Champion and dot.com entrepreneur, said: "We live in a world where digital technology is an essential part of people's lives - whether it's at work or simply getting around town. I want to encourage more people to develop their digital skills, and that's why it's been great to be a part of this initiative. Using apps that locate local health services or apps that help you to get fit can dramatically improve your daily life."
The Government is in the process of developing an Information Strategy to ensure that patients and clinicians have access to meaningful and up-to-date information. This will give patients more choice, control and responsibility over their health and clinicians the information to manage how they deliver local services.
The strategy is expected to be published in the Spring.