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Can health and fitness apps on smartphones add value to the NHS?

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With more and more smart phone apps like MyFitnessPal to monitor calories vs exercise and the health app on iPhones which even goes as far to monitor your daily steps, we ask, can health and fitness apps on smartphones add value to the NHS?

In 2014 it was reported that there were over 9000 medical and fitness apps available for the iPhone alone, never mind Android and Microsoft Windows. Private healthcare companies have already adopted the healthcare smartphone revolution creating an app-based service which gives patients the option of having a video chat with a doctor and even receiving an electronic prescription. With A+E and GP surgeries under severe pressure should the NHS be looking to adopt this new way of administering healthcare? It certainly seems feasible, with the baby boomer generation coming to retirement age, we have an opportunity to utilise the tech savvy and computer literate sector of our society who will be the elderly of the future. Could we see healthcare in the UK move away from visiting a GP to simply booking a time slot on your phone and having a video call to be diagnosed? Of course face to face diagnosis will never be totally replaced (not for a while anyway) but this seems like a legitimate option to reduce the pressures we currently see on our straining health services.

As if the NHS are preparing for this smart phone future, we are seeing more and more diagnostic smart phone applications which are becoming more advanced.

Guys and St Thomas’ announced at the start of February that they have introduced a special smartphone that will monitor the health of heart failure patients and detect any issues they might be having. At the moment only 25 patients are trialling this new smartphone which monitors different aspects and takes readings on their heart rate and blood oxygen levels. The trial patients are provided with a smartphone, scales, a machine to measure their blood oxygen and a blood pressure cuff.

This new device is being used to help the patients manage their condition and can potentially save lives by helping them detect problems or changes in their health more quickly so they don’t end up at crisis point in hospital. The patient’s data is collected by Bluetooth and sent to BT’s telehealth service, which is easily monitored by the relevant healthcare professionals and will alert them if any problems arise. According to new studies, 900,000 people in the UK have heart failure and 40% die within the first year of diagnosis – so this could be a breakthrough in how people can keep a check on their health.

In another example, researchers have recently released a smartphone app which monitors Parkinson’s disease patients to track their progress. Parkinson’s affects over 10 million people worldwide and researchers believe that their app can track changes in voice (a key indicator of Parkinson’s) with 99% accuracy.

It is being shown that smart phone apps can revolutionise the treatment and monitoring of existing conditions, we wonder how long it will be before your smartphone will be informing you of an illness before you even get the symptoms!

Is this the future of healthcare and what else can we expect in the future? It remains to be seen… 
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