Health Secretary calls for new apps to improve health and wellbeing

HEALTH Secretary, Andrew Lansley, is challenging patients, health professionals and technology developers to come up with ideas for new health apps that will help people make more-informed decisions about their care.

Launching the initiative at the Evelina Children's Hospital in London, he said: "We want to give people better access to information that will put them in control of their health and help make informed choices about their healthcare. Over the next six weeks, we want to hear from patients, health professionals and budding app developers on their ideal new app. This is a unique opportunity for the NHS and those who develop apps to not only showcase their work, but to bring to life new ideas and realise true innovation in healthcare."

This is a unique opportunity for the NHS and those who develop apps to not only showcase their work, but to bring to life new ideas and realise true innovation in healthcare

An example of an app that benefits patients is Choosing Well, which was developed by NHS Yorkshire and Humber and allows people to search for their nearest health services. Another - MicroGuide - developed by NHS Southampton, gives practical support to clinicians when treating patients with infections; while Breakthrough Breast Cancer's iBreastCheck app provides simple informative guidance to help women check for breast abnormalities.

The entries will be judged by an expert panel which includes Dr Shaibal Roy from the National Institute for Health Research; Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director; Julie Meyer, an online Dragon's Den judge and chief executive of Ariadne Capital; and Jenny Ritchie-Campbell, director of cancer services innovation at Macmillan Cancer Support.

Dr Roy said: "I am proud to be part of this call for ideas from patients, their families, the public and frontline healthcare professionals. Useful and easy-to-use smartphone apps and information maps will surely support both patients and clinicians in their shared decisions to improve outcomes.

The possibility of apps helping to improve patient care is enormous and we are already seeing examples of their success in, for example, emergency situations, where clinicians can now quickly and accurately double check complex drug dose calculations

"I hope this work will help the NHS understand completely new ways to help improve outcomes for individuals and their families. There are inspiring apps and incredible ideas that have never before been gathered and shared nationally. We hope to accomplish this quickly, and in doing so, build a community of champions to explore this particular view of the future."

Dr Ian Abbs, medical director at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Evelina Children's Hospital, added: "Our staff are already realising the benefits of medical apps and have developed a number of these which are proving popular with the medical community."

I hope this work will help the NHS understand completely new ways to help improve outcomes for individuals and their families

"Some are already European best sellers and provide instant access to the most up-to-date guidance on topics including patient safety, thrombosis and paediatric drug calculations – all at the touch of a button. The possibility of apps helping to improve patient care is enormous and we are already seeing examples of their success in, for example, emergency situations, where clinicians can now quickly and accurately double-check complex drug dose calculations."

Ideas and suggestions are being invited in five categories:

  • Personalisation and choice of care and support - for example, allowing a user to search of healthcare information online
  • Better health and care outcomes - for example, an app that allows a patient to manage an existing health condition
  • Autonomy and accountability - i.e. an app that allows patients to publicly rate and review local services
  • Improving public health - for example, an app that tracks an individual's levels of physical activity
  • Improving long-term care and support - i.e. an app that helps with planning long-term care

As part of the new initiative, Lansley is also asking people to vote for their favourite existing app.

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