When we launched our Maps and Apps crowd-sourcing exercise, I'm not sure we fully appreciated quite what we were starting.
We had a neat internally-rhyming name for it, some excellent people involved, and we knew that we could find examples of apps being used for health and care. But I don't think we anticipated the reaction from the fledgling community, or how far the apps we identified were already changing people's lives.
As the examples and ideas flowed in, the conversation around the exercise revealed a competitive but generous community of healthcare professionals, developers, and entrepreneurs. I met several of those people at the showcase event that we held last week.
As a parent of a child with fairly complex medical needs, I have often turned to the internet for help. Initially that meant searching for information, and connecting with people with similar experiences through social networks. More recently I have relied on apps to help organise information.
The app that has really made a difference in my house is not intended to be a healthcare app at all. We've used Remember the Milk to stay on top of appointments and records about treatment. It has replaced more fallible systems for filing all the letters, scribbled notes and other pieces of paper that you accumulate if you're a regular user of the NHS. And it's eliminated some of the paranoid habits you get into as a parent with too much to remember, like keeping multiple lists or sending emails to yourself.
Through Maps and Apps, I've found that there are better, more bespoke, apps for managing health and organising care, designed to help patients and carers achieve specific things better. Apps like Rally Round, Moodscope, Florence, the Bowel Cancer Map, Health Unlocked, Foodwiz, Wellnote and many more. And I've learned that there is huge potential for more.
Now we have to decide what to do next. We'll pick up some of the tougher questions around the role of DH and the NHS though our work on our Information Strategy, which is due to be published shortly, drawing on the NHS Future Forum's work on information.
But of course, we want to keep the conversation going. So it's great that the #nhssm community is already taking it up - I hope that this ongoing conversation helps connect people who wouldn't otherwise be connected, identifies some of the challenges ahead, and shines a light on innovation.