Real-time social phenomenon, Twitter, can be a powerful tool to help prevent heart disease and improve health practices, according to a group of researchers affiliated with the University of Sydney.
Their study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, surveying 15 international health-focused Twitter accounts, nine professional organisations and six medical journals, were selected for analysis of their Twitter growth, reach, and content.
Proteus Digital Health has developed a pill that can text an alert when it enters a patient’s stomach. The technology, widely tested and already available for over-the-counter sale in a pilot program in the UK is just one of several new developments in caregiving technology designed to prevent hospital readmissions and relieve family caregivers of the persistent worry: “Is Dad taking his meds?”
Under what circumstances will clinicians want to prescribe apps, and what would make it easier for them to do so?
Apps, like pharmaceuticals, can in principle help patients and families meet their healthcare goals. Many would like clinicians to embrace apps and begin recommending them to their patients. It would be easy for clinicians to end up making the same mistakes with apps as we’ve often made with the prescription of medications: recommendations based on marketing rather than more considered assessments of expected value, and prescription of apps for every little medical condition rather than choosing a few high-yield apps based on a whole-person approach to managing healthcare. To ensure more thoughtful recommending of apps, especially for medically complex patients, we could consider strategies that can be helpful in managing multiple medications. These include reviewing the use of a proposed app within the context of the patient’s overall health issues and goals of care, being explicit about the purpose of the app and expected benefit, and periodically reviewing and adjusting app use. The recommendation of apps for every single medical diagnosis affecting an older person could easily lead to app overload, and should be avoided.
At this years Innovation Expo (13/14 March) the NHS Commissioning Board will be launching the Health Apps Library. The Health Apps Library acts as a NHS approved app store for iOS, Android, Blackberry and web apps allowing users to find apps to help with their conditions, live healthier and provide information on health and social care. Every app in the Health App Library has been through a formal review process that ensures that the information is correct and clinically safe.
There are over 13,000 health apps available to smartphones at the moment. The quality of the apps and the information contained within them vary wildly as developers with different motives and ability look to use the smartphone’s app paradigm to improve the user’s health or to make some easy money. The app markets also cater for international markets; developers can choose which countries they’d like to sell their app in (and can produce localised versions if they wish) but there is no quality check to ensure that the apps are localised meaning that some of the apps in the UK app stores are actually American.
When a developer submits their app to the app store it is checked over to ensure it runs and meets a number of app store criteria. Of the app stores Blackberry and Apple are the most demanding but they only check to ensure that the app works to a certain standard, won’t comprise the device and are provide enough functionality to be considered an app. The Google Play Market are less demanding and in general apps submitted to it will be live within a few hours compared to the week or longer wait of Apple’s app store.
By offering users a single point of contact for UK clinically reviewed apps the user doesn’t run the risk of downloading an app that isn’t going to meet the standards of NHS patient information. This helps to create some equilibrium in the otherwise turbulent app market environment where apps are judged by the number of times downloaded and not the overall quality of the app and the information it contains. For clinicians the Health Apps Library will serve as a clear index of apps suitable for patients to use on their devices and will allow them to suggest apps knowing that the app has met the high standards expected of NHS backed products. This will help with the information prescriptions initiative and ultimately increase the amount of clinically validated information available to a patient.
The eHealth Initiative (eHI), a non-profit organization whose mission is to drive improvement in the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare through information and technology, has unveiled its first-ever Health IT Cancer Resources Guide, a comprehensive overview of the digital tools and technologies available today that help patients and their families, caregivers and support networks understand, treat and cope with cancer.
The guide lists 76 tools ranging from mobile applications to web sites to social networks that aim to improve cancer care. It was developed by eHI’s National Council on Cancer and Technology, which included representatives from American Cancer Society and American Society of Clinical Oncologists, and is organized in five sections: decision making, education, treatment management, social support and lifestyle management.
eHI developed the guide based on the findings of the Issue Brief on eHealth Tools and Cancer Care, a review of 124 articles, which examined how telemedicine, mobile health, internet-based technologies and social media are being used in cancer care today. The issue brief highlighted the meaningful impact eHealth tools have on care including the removal of geographic barriers, enhanced decision-making capabilities and improved patient-provider communication.
To view the full Health IT Cancer Resource Guide click here.