An app a day keeps the doctor away: Patients told to use mobile phones for a check-up instead of visiting their GP

Sophie Borland in The Mail reports on the UK’s Department of Health plans to have patients use smartphone Apps to “monitor their health at home rather than seeing a Doctor or nurse” in a “scheme” being rolled out “in the hope it will save the NHS millions of pounds through unnecessary visits to the surgery or hospital”.

The article features some quotes from some interesting British healthcare industry leaders:

Encouraging people to do something is a good idea but making people do it is a bad idea. You can guarantee that elderly people will not be able to use it or anyone else who isn’t very good with technology. If used wrongly it’s a big mistake. But some people love this kind of thing it really motivates them. Self-care is very important… …GP surgeries could be ‘bombarded with information’ which could divert doctors and nurses from seeing sick patients… …if a hundred patients are texting in their readings every day it’s going to occupy a member of staff all day. Doctors and nurses may need to be doing something else

Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman, British Medical Association’s GP Committee

These apps will help provide patients with more information and give them greater control over their own care… …but they will not be right for everyone, particularly elderly patients who may struggle with the technology. Other systems and sources of information must also be in place to help those patients who are not able to use the technology… …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

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive, Patient’s Association

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… …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

Andrew Lansley CBE, Secretary of State for Health

My thoughts

> First impressions are that all of these siloed SMS and Smartphone App’s could very well be the perfect recipe for further fragmentation of care and an ignorance of the need for a holistic approach to care. Let’s hope the IT guys involved have an appreciation of the best practice in digital Doctor-Patient communications.

> The article reveals that NHS trusts will be provided with SMS services free of charge. I wonder what the impact of give away will have on the mHealth pioneers such as iPlato that have been committed to working so hard over the last few years to get SMS appointment reminder services accepted and implemented by NHS healthcare service providers.

I wonder if this sweeping move will provide any recognition or support to these private sector providers for the vitally important groundwork that they’ve done?

> It surprises me that Dr Laurence Buckman would make such a sweeping judgement on the abilities of seniors to use technology. I’d love to hear what Sir Stirling Moss thinks of this GP’s attitude!

> I’m surprised that there has been no mention of utilising more basic mHealth services despite the higher penetration of feature phones amongst underserved NHS patient groups and the wealth of evidence supporting the benefits and cost saving potential there is to use this huge resource eg. the use of caller ID to link patients and their Healthcare Records when calls are made to 999 emergency services, the expansion of emergency voice calls to enable 3G Mobile Video Calling, etc.

Interestingly the article uses an image that highlights how easily a video link to a qualified medical professional can greatly and inexpensively improve the quality of medical care in the community. It’s important that care providers appreciate that as they start trying to provide and support more care in the community there will be increasing levels of incorrect/inaccurate use of medical devices. It’s going to become obvious that video (both live and prerecorded) is critical to effective communication especially when you appreciate that the vast majority of care in the community is provided by medically untrained friends and family.

Imagine how a quick and inexpensive informed 3G Doctor style consultation could inform this patient how to properly record a blood pressure reading – potentially saving yet another >£1k emergency medical transfer.

About David Doherty
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2 Responses to An app a day keeps the doctor away: Patients told to use mobile phones for a check-up instead of visiting their GP

  1. Pingback: Inspiring story about how mobile data can help patients make and maintain positive health changes « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

  2. Pingback: Is mHealth the ultimate loss leader in the Smartphone era? « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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