Healthcare professionals in North Staffordshire are looking to technology to help patients take control of their health.
Retired GP Dr Ruth Chambers has used apps and smart speakers in recent years to help support people with medical conditions such as diabetes and heart problems.
Last year, she helped to create the ‘Know My Beat’ app, which encouraged people to check their heart rate to see if it was regular. If not, it could be a sign of atrial fibrillation (AF).
Dr Chambers has worked with Luke Bracegirdle – co-director of Virtual Health Shed – to create new, innovative apps that give patients control over their own health.
So far, three apps have been developed which are available to download, free of charge, on both Apple and Android devices.
‘Know My Beat’ helps people to look for the warning signs of AF, which is the most common heart rhythm disturbance in the UK and accounts for causing one in five strokes.
The app shows you how to take your pulse and consider whether it might be irregular. If so, it encourages you to contact your GP for further advice.
Those who are diagnosed with AF can then use the ‘Know My Heart’ app to learn more about their condition – and how to control it.
The apps use the expertise of cardiology consultant Dr Thanh Phan, Royal Stoke University Hospital AF nurse Kevin McGibbon, and patient Tim Bevington – who is also a lay member on the CCG board.
Earlier this year, Dr Chambers also shared news of a new app – ‘Beat Diabetes’ – which provides users with information about diabetes, including how patients with the condition can better manage it.
The app also features interactive videos, 3D models of the pancreas and a question and answer section, with the aim of making people more aware of how diabetes can arise in the body – and be avoided.
Dr Chambers said: “The Beat Diabetes app is a great asset for people recently diagnosed with diabetes.
“It helps them to understand how diabetes affects their body and what they can do to beat the condition and become healthier – and for some, that means not having to take the diabetes medication anymore.”
Gabby Johnson is a medical student at Nottingham University. She supported Dr Chambers in the development of her medical apps.
She said: “Health apps can enhance a patient’s understanding of their health condition and empower them to manage their health or improve their lifestyle habits.
“They can provide information, help you record readings – for example, your blood pressure – encourage activities and even arrange feedback from health professionals.
“There are loads of apps out there – hundreds for each health condition. Some are free, some are costly. The NHS Apps library has accredited, recommended apps for a variety of health conditions.”
Dr Chambers says the apps have been well received, with a total of 73,706 views and 2,792 installations for all three apps across both Apple and Android devices as of February 2021.
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