The government wants GPs to prescribe apps for patients, some of which could be free, in a bid to take advantage of the latest smartphone technology and allow patients to monitor and manage their own health more effectively.
The Department of Health wants patients and the public to find and use NHS services, manage conditions, and make better lifestyle choices at the touch of a handheld device, and save money in the process.
The NHS Choices annual report in 2011 showed that use of the service cut the number of GP appointments made.
And use of smartphone technology seems to be popular with patients. A Department of Health initiative launched last August to find the best new ideas and existing smartphone apps received nearly 500 entries from clinicians and the public and over 12,600 votes and comments.
The five suggested themes were designed to boost personalisation and choice of care and support, health and care outcomes, autonomy and accountability, public health and the management of long term conditions.
The most popular app ideas were those to help manage long term conditions like diabetes, cope with post-traumatic stress, and track and monitor blood pressure.
Other ideas included the ability to find NHS services on a map and get practical information about keeping fit and eating healthily.
Popular apps include Patients Know Best, where each patient gets their health records from all their clinicians and controls who gets access to them. The app enables patients to have online consultations with any member of their clinical team, receive automated explanations of their results, and collaborate on a personalised care plan.
Hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, University College London, and Torbay, as well as GPs and community nurses have already been using it, says the Department of Health.
The Diabetes App reminds those with the condition to check blood sugar levels and take medication. It allows them to monitor, record and track blood sugar information, which can then be sent electronically to their surgery or clinic.
And it can help patients control their diet by allowing them to zap an increasing number of barcodes while shopping and get immediate information on the amount of calories, carbohydrates, and fats in the foods they select.
At an event showcasing the best ideas for new and existing health smartphone apps in London today, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
The government’s information strategy for patients and clinicians is due to be published in the Spring.
OnMedica editor’s top 3 apps of the moment:
An educational app taking you from age or weight to situation specific drugs & doses in two touches. It can help clinicians to rapidly check drug doses in children both in emergency and non-emergency situations. To go the iTunes store, click here.
An app for patients to use in order to monitor their asthma control. It is possible to keep a journal of asthma symptoms, monitor peak flow and email a summary to a clinician as required.
To go the iTunes store, click here.
An app aimed at patients with asthma to allow them to understand and manage symptoms. It contains an asthma dashboard to check for potential triggers where the patient lives. In addition it also has a tool to measure and track the level of asthma control, which patients can share with their clinician.
To go the iTunes store, click here.
A multi-functional App for active healthcare professionals. Encompassing the OnMedica Drugs Reference (ODR) for instant and quick reference; 5-a-day questions for bite-size learning that is easily added to a PDP tracker and the latest news to ensure that even the busiest clinician keeps up-to-date with everything relevant to their role. Available to download from iTunes March 2012.