I am, and always have been, a strong advocate of personalised health - an approach that empowers patients to be part of their healthcare program, not simply a recipient of treatment. It's why I'm incredibly proud to be part of an initiative that takes this ethos to a new level.
EMIS Group has launched a mobile personal health record (PHR) that can that link 39 million whole-life patient records with health and fitness measurement devices and apps through integration with Apple's new HealthKit tool in iOS 8. In my view, it is one of the most important steps forward in 'citizen health' in recent history. Why? Because it facilitates a patient/doctor relationship that simply hasn't been possible before.
Health apps that enable individuals to monitor their own heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, weight loss/gain and similar indicators are nothing new. But collating that information and enabling patients to create their own PHR record which they control and can share directly with clinicians, is.
For the first time, patients can now combine their GP-held medical record - already accessible via EMIS' Patient Access app - with data from other health monitoring devices via Apple's new Health app. This will give patients a comprehensive, highly secure, personal health record to enable them to better manage their own health - and to inform the clinicians who care for them. It is a scenario that can only lead to more informed, accurate and personal care and ultimately, patient empowerment.
This is not a fad or a gimmick. It is a logical evolution in healthcare that applies consumer technology innovation to an NHS environment in order to capitalise on valuable data that could improve patients' lives considerably and tackle key health challenges.
For example, there are 3.5 million people in the UK living with Type 2 diabetes, with a further 11.5 million at high risk of developing the condition. It is a national issue of significant scale. But what if...
• GPs use risk stratification technology to identify those at risk of developing the condition?
• Those patients can then use personal health apps/devices to track key indicators and their health status?
• Data collated can then be shared with healthcare professionals to develop a bespoke, preventative care plan that puts patients in the driving seat?
The truth is, there are no more "what ifs". This is now a reality and one which, if widely adopted, could provide the missing piece of the puzzle to supercharge intervention programmes by giving more control - and responsibility - to patients, while also ensuring that clinicians are better equipped to make decisions on care strategy. This innovation is capable of changing the focus of healthcare from making patients better to stopping patients becoming unwell.
Is this an innovation that patients want? A recent poll by YouGov found that 71% of people did not realise the technology exists to let them access their GP record online or via a smartphone, would like to use it, or thought it would help them to manage their health better.
This finding relates to accessing the GP record only, not to collating a full PHR using consumer technology, but it does reveal two key things. That patients have an appetite for personalised health - they want to be involved - but also that a lot of work may be needed to educate people about the possibilities now open to them. A solution to a problem can only come about if people know it exists.
With so much potential for improving lives, health, and NHS outcomes, it's an educational challenge that is well worth tackling.