Before I recommend an app to a patient I want to know three things:
- Is it going to be suitable for them to use?
- Will it improve their health outcomes?
- Will it be safe?
On the surface, these questions seem relatively straightforward. However, finding answers I can trust, in the short window of time I have to spend with my patient, is anything but straightforward.
For GPs like myself, who see inherent value in mobile applications, this problem is all too familiar. Clinicians don’t have the time to research health apps and therefore don’t recommend them to patients.
This sets our practice out of touch with how most patients choose to live their lives.
An app for the weather - why not for your health too?
My patients use mobile devices to keep abreast of current affairs, to check the latest weather updates, to stay connected with friends and family. Some of them also use health apps and fitness trackers to monitor their health and activity levels themselves.
There are some pockets of our health system where we can find really innovative practice. Some UK hospitals are developing mobile apps to help patients manage serious medical conditions and feed information back to their doctors between visits, often in real time. Health and care related apps are being used to help with everything from recovering from surgery and managing pain, right through to reminding people to take their medication.
Unfortunately though, the GP practice is taking last place in the digital revolution race.
It doesn’t need to be that way.
How do we make sure health and care apps are safe?
There is now a way for busy GPs likes myself to look at the 325,000 health and care apps on the market and quickly distinguish between the good, the bad and the useless.
ORCHA, the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications has developed a safe, simple and highly effective way to validate health apps and provide a convenient rating scale to guide clinicians and the general public. You can read more about ORCHA in the blog post, 'The growth in m-health'.
ORCHA support us as GPs to find an answer to the key questions I, and many of my colleagues, need reliable answers to. It also empowers health and care professionals to identify, engage with and actively promote apps that will have a positive impact on their patients’ health and wellbeing outcomes.
If we are to empower patients to take ownership and be proactive about their health, then using technology - where we are assured of its value and safety - is an important part of this commitment. High quality apps can help clinicians to engage with patients dynamically, deliver better care, improve accessibilty, and preserve our limited NHS resources.