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Maps and apps for health and care - what next?

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When we launched our Maps and Apps crowd-sourcing exercise, I'm not sure we fully appreciated quite what we were starting.

Generic apps

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 RoundMoodscope, 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.

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  1. Comment by Peter Schmidt posted on

    I am really excited about this idea and it's a shame that I found out about it after the panel assessing health apps closed.
    Last year I published an app (iPhone/Android) for people living with HIV - to help people with HIV keep track of their results and treatment. The uptake has been great and it demonstrates there is a need for this type of technology.
    Prescribing apps through clinics/GPs is definitely a way forward and I am very encouraged to see the Department of Health being so proactive in this area.
    Kind regards
    Peter Schmidt

    • Replies to Peter Schmidt>

      Comment by Nigel Smith posted on

      Agreed. We produced an app for lorry drivers who have notoriously unhealthy lifestyles partly due to the lack of accessibility to excercise and healthy food during their working day, not to mention stress etc.

      We have also picked up on increased interest in using e-learning tools amongst staff as opposed to more costly face to face training such as our Every Contact Counts Brief Advice Training Tool however what I would like to see happen is for these to be enabled as apps as well to capture more people who could do the training e.g. on the train from their phone as opposed to having to wait to find a computer. However that obviously has a financial cost as well.

      Follow us on Twitter @ECCWmids

  2. Comment by Jon Campbell posted on

    These health maps show some interesting distributions of health-related issues in the UK. Crowd-sourcing is clearly going to be a great way of collecting data in the future – think what John Snow’s maps of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak did for public health care.

  3. Comment by Jon Foster posted on

    Just wondering whether there was an update on this? Have you done anything with the 'directory' of apps, or looked to adopt or start using some?

    I'd be interested to know, as the project seems to have died down a bit with no real follow up beyond this post...

    Thanks in advance!

    • Replies to Jon Foster>

      Comment by Stephen Hale posted on

      Hi - Maps and apps was really a showcase - the value was mostly in the community around it, the connections that people were able to make, and the ongoing conversation. The "what next?" question was the subject of a session at the digital health hack day a few days ago (see: - it hasn't gone away.