Things happen ever faster on the second half of the chessboard. No sooner had the ink dried on our predictions for 2015, and Dr Eric Topol told the story of the first patient to call him with a smartphone diagnosis than Alivecor announced that they now have CE certification for their AF-diagnosing app.
Mind you, whilst Dr Topol might welcome this, it seems that others are still on a different chessboard: under the heading “Doctors fear that new health tech is turning UK into a nation of “worried well””, a recent survey of UK doctors showed that “Seven out of ten (76%) GPs said they had noticed a marked increase in number of patients “self-diagnosing” from the internet over the past twelve months” suggesting, in the words of 1066 & all that, that technology is a Bad Thing. What, this reviewer wonders, will be the reaction to a smartphone diagnosing?
There is much else in the survey to challenge anyone wanting to believe that the shiny uplands of digital health are already in view, such as that “two in ten (21%) said they had seen an increase in numbers of patients presenting at the surgery with data generated from health apps and smart devices.” (Only two in ten – clearly not Telehealth & Telecare Aware readers.). No wonder Sir Bruce Keogh is saying that “the NHS we have <is> not fit for <the> future”, before going on, thankfully, to argue that “wearable technology plays a crucial part in <the> NHS future”.
Sadly the message still has to get through to the authors of worthy documents in the NHS too – for example Mike Clark (whose excellent monthly newsletter is just out) kindly pointed us to the recent NHS England/Age UK booklet on healthy ageing that makes no mention of assistive technology whatever – not even a stairlift, let alone the sort of preparation that Wendy Darling, Managing Director of Centra Pulse was urging following a recent Centra/YouGov poll. As she said: “A third of the population now have a parent aged over 65 and are likely to seriously worry about their welfare at some point. We found that for a significant number, this will manifest itself as stress…We would urge people in this situation to explore the range of support that is designed to ease the burden on worried relatives and carers. An increasing number of people are now taking advantage of telecare technology which allows them to stay living independently in and out of the home for longer.”
And this omission is not just restricted to that booklet – Mike has also kindly pointed us to the recent set of information provided by the NHS describing tools to help people manage with Long Term Conditions (here, here & here) which is again deficient in reference to how technology can help (and about the Better Care Fund, the role of social care etc.). The Integration Care Pioneer Programme Annual Report 2014 released last week also has just one mention, on page 11. Is this the same NHS England that produced the splendid Personalised Health and Care to 2020 at the end of 2014, or a completely different organisation trying to defy Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity by continuing to tell people to do the same thing (only more thoroughly) and confidently expecting a different, better, outcome?
However if the Labour Party is elected to power in May, it looks as though at least the social care problems will be on their way to be fixed: GP has just reported that they will be getting GPs to do safety checks on older people’s houses “to identify energy savings and trip hazards”, so that’ll be alright (interestingly in their response, the RCGP makes no mention of this additional workload).
There is good news elsewhere too, such as evidence that left venticular assistance can actually help heart muscle to regenerate. Another intriguing sign of the times is that X-ray machines are now so small that in the US, a home X-ray service has begun. And CSC, the North West Coast AHSN and the University of Cumbria have published an excellent Telehealth Readiness Tool; highly recommended…and a topic that we haven’t mentioned for a while now, 3D printing, is finding new uses in medicine.
3D chess anyone?
People have self-diagnosed for a long time. I remember a book back in my youth that the Reader’s Digest brought out entitled ‘Family Medical Adviser’. A heavy book of medical conditions and their assorted symptoms, diagnoses and treatments that everyone’s Grandma and Granddad seemed to have on their shelves; that was used for self diagnosing by many and I am sure lives were saved by it (it had a first aid section too as well as an exercise appendix I think). What is missing from the referenced survey is whether these Android or Fruit believing patients were actually on to something with their device generated queries. They self diagnosed using technology, but what Appened?
I grew up in a home with a Merck Manual on the shelf well before my brother went to med school….and one very influential book since 1983 in many homes was the Balches’ Prescription for Nutritional Healing that clarified verified nutritional support for many conditions and steered people away from many ‘quack’ or ineffective supplements.
People are always going to do their own research, and the resources online are improving far beyond WebMD and Everyday Health. There are sites like Medivizor which now provide highly personalized information for chronic and serious medical conditions including clinical trials and treatment options. There are also special interest blogs and groups which are now easier to find than ever.