Mobile applications for the NHS

How could they be introduced?

Within cancer care ‘Living with and Beyond Cancer’ is very high up on the NHS’s agenda as more people are surviving cancer and are left with consequences from treatment. Macmillan’s ‘Recovery Package’, which they hope to have in place for patients by 2020 could be dramatically supported by appropriate technology. Apps could remotely monitor patients, using the same Holistic Needs Assessment that was used to measure their wellbeing during treatment.

Sheffield’s radiotherapy department is currently working on a Webapp, which will assess the patient before they go into see their consultant in clinic, a holistic needs assessment of their needs will be completed which assures key issues are addressed within the consultation. There is also an opportunity for patients to make the clinic aware if they need any repeat prescriptions, so that these could be written up by the doctor, and even potentially sent to be dispensed in pharmacy before the patient has been seen, to save time. It also contains information, services and how to get support. This has potential to feed into a network of healthcare professionals involved in this person’s care, and could also be used for analysis of patient needs trends at different points in the pathway. Devices like exercise trackers have the potential to input into this software in future. Collective intelligence of this sort could teach clinicians a great deal about key themes and patterns.

Behaviour change research is currently being piloted locally in cancer patients, and technology has a huge potential to reinforce this with lifestyle monitoring, putting more focus on self-management. Cancer awareness could be built into lifestyle monitoring Apps to make people aware of the increased risk of cancer in relation to some of their lifestyle choices, thus saving the NHS money. Data of the knock-on effect of this would take decades to prove conclusively. There is also a GP system (that the GP invested in himself), which has reduced attendances at his surgery by monitoring test results and patient reported outcomes such as mood remotely, rather than getting patients to attend for check-ups. This had good outcome measures both in terms of cost to the organisation, and from patient satisfaction.

Auditing services would be easier if done through an App that the client was using anyway. Sharing ideas between healthcare professionals could also be facilitated.

Apps have the potential to improve healthcare efficiency, however it is the software systems that Apps would have to input into that is currently inadequate within the NHS. Information governance teams have found creative ways of making an individual’s information secure in Apps with the use of voucher code systems, but ideally this would be improved with the use of fingerprint, voice recognition or iris recognition technology at some point!

Ms Hannah Hall

HCPC registered Therapy Radiographer