Government Prescribes Medical Apps For Smartphones

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Is there a doctor in the house? Andrew Lansley suggests we all check our smartphones, as part of an NHS drive

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is urging GPs to “prescribe” smartphone apps to NHS patients smartphone apps in order to help them monitor and manage their own health more effectively.

Lansley, whose major health reform is suffering criticism from all corners of the health service, took time yesterday to suggest that smartphone apps could help people locate and use NHS services, manage their medical conditions and make better lifestyle choices in a way that is very convenient for them.

Staying Healthy

“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,” said Lansley. “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,” he added. “With more information at their fingertips, patients can truly be in the driving seat.”

The idea comes after the Department of Health (DH) issued a call to find the best smartphone apps to help doctors and patients manage care. The DH apparently received nearly 500 entries and more than 12,600 votes and comments.

The most popular ideas focussed on managing long-term conditions like diabetes, as well as helping people with post-traumatic stress, monitoring blood pressure, finding NHS services on a map, and getting information on keeping fit and eating healthily.

Other apps include a tool for food allergy suffers, which reportedly scans the bar codes on food products to see if they contain dangerous ingredients.

According to the Daily Telegraph, another popular app is the Patients Know Best, which enables patients to get all their records from their doctors and gives them control over who can access them. It is apparently already used in some hospitals including Great Ormond Street and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“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,” said Lansley.

Privacy Issues?

The government is of course hoping that the apps will reduce the number of visits to GPs and help ease the burden on hospitals, as well as proving very useful to the patients themselves of course.

While apps like this sound on the surface to be a good thing, there could be some privacy concerns.

For example will the information that the apps collect be made available to outside entities? Facebook and Google found themselves in hot water in late 2010 when it emerged that four third-party companies were tracking users who visited the NHS website – apparently with the blessing of the NHS.

However there is little denying that nowadays many people find smartphone apps such as these very helpful. And more and more of us are using smartphones.

Earlier this week study by research firm Kantar Worldpanel revealed that more than half of the British population now own at least one smartphone.

 

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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