Monthly Archives: October 2014

Vida: The Future of Health Apps?

In an exciting week for health care technology ex Google executive Stephanie Tilenius has launched the Digital Health app Vida aimed at helping people to manage chronic disease. Already it’s proving to be a big hit in Silicon Valley with a reported $5 million generated in the series A round (a company’s first significant round of venture funding in the Silicon Valley model of start-ups) and has sparked speculation over what’s next for health care apps across the globe.

So far Health Care and Wellbeing apps have typically focused on one thing like helping you to lose weight or monitoring your heart rates. However, these have proved to be little more than data collection apps and with more people living with numerous long term conditions such as diabetes and hypertension there is a growing market for chronic disease management technology.

While Vida does focus primarily on health coaching and preventing the development of multiple conditions it is fully integrated with Apple’s HealthKit. This allows it to draw in health care data gathered by glucose monitors, heart rate monitors, pedometers and any other piece of health tech you have linked to your smart phone. So it can be used to manage conditions and to help you reverse some of the effects, however, it’s rather expensive.

Vida was developed for the American health care market and as such doesn’t really work within the UK. The people who would most need an app which helps them to track and manage multiple long term conditions are probably the people least likely to be able to afford private health care.

However, it does recognise the growing need for combined long term morbidity care. While the coaching feature of Vida, might not appeal to all of the British public, a joint venture between health care and social care could work. Allowing patients to track medical information and maintain contact with medical professionals remotely, could be a major contributor in keeping vulnerable patients living independently in their own homes and out of hospitals and care homes.

A Website Roadmap for Federated Practices

Commissioning a website for your new federation can be daunting. You want something that reflects who you are as a business, and that meets all yours and your members’ needs. However, these requirements are likely to evolve throughout the process of launching your business. So, to make life easier we’ve taken a look at the three phases that health care providers go through when planning their new website.

Phase 1 Establishing your Identity and Presence

In the beginning you are going to want to establish your presence and let the world know who you are, what your structure is and your organisations purpose is. Typically this is the stage where your site provides a way of meeting governance requirements; allowing you to publish agendas and meeting minutes as well as getting valuable feedback from members.

Even at this very early stage of development your website should be providing benefits for your organisation. While these might be the ‘softer’ benefits they are equality important, especially is establishing an identity which your members can all relate too. Many health businesses report that after establishing their visual identity online their member practices developed a stronger sense of belonging to their organisation.

  • What will your website have on it?

At the start this will probably be very simple, containing your organisations name, contact details, important documents and member details. It’s better to start with a smaller amount of information that is useful than to throw in a lot of information which isn’t much use just to bulk up the site.

  • What first impression do you want your site to make?

This is something you want to establish right at the beginning of the website launch, do you want it to convey trust? Professionalism? Exclusivity? Or perhaps a mixture of all three.

Phase 2 – Promoting your Services

When you start to introduce your services you’ll probably reach a stage when you are looking to evolve your website to the next phase.   Your website gives you an opportunity to explain essential information about your services to patients. Typical questions that can be answered on your website are:

  • Where do I need to go to access your services?
  • Why isn’t this service being offered at the local hospital or by my own GP?
  • How do I prepare?
  • What can I expect from the consultation?
  • Who can I contact if can’t make my appointment

You’ll find that by answering these common questions from patients from the outset will allow you to cut down on the number of phone calls you receive and DNA’s.

Phase 3 – Collaboration with Members

As your organisation grows your member practices will become more proactively engaged with your organisation. At this stage your website will typically have a private members area that is available via a login. This area will encourage your members to view important documents and share and debate ideas online. While this has the benefit of encouraging member engagement within your organisation it also has the added benefit of cutting down on meeting times.

You may want to generate eNewsletters via your website to keep everyone informed about your plans, ask for opinions via forums and publish draft minutes.

Planning your website shouldn’t be a worry and you really don’t need to do everything all at once.   If you have established the needs of your patients, the public and your members as your organisation evolves you have the start of a blueprint for the evolution of your website.

Wearable Tech: Trend or the Future?

Wearable tech is the ‘go to’ topic of the moment and with an increasing foothold in fashion and E-fitness it seems like a trend that is destined to stay. Over the next 5 years it’s expected that more companies will begin developing E-health products and E-textiles, which simply put means we’ll all be wearing our new gadgets sooner rather than later.

At the moment fitness trackers are the number one selling item in health related wearable tech. With approximately 1 in 10 people using fitness trackers their popularity seems to only be growing, although they might soon be surpassed by skin sensors, bio monitors and even headbands which can measure your brainwaves.

Incredible products like these have been demonstrated in conferences and research labs across the globe, sparking a whole new industry in Silicon Valley. It seems like wearable technology could be the next big medical advance, allowing doctors and patients to take highly accurate readings of everything from attention span to blood pressure. These innovations have the potential to help millions of people manage their health, lower levels of preventable diseases in the west and revolutionise mental healthcare.

So does wearable tech have an actual future or is it just another pretty fad? Well a recent study by Forbs found that 71% of 16 – 24 year olds want more wearable technology which is a very good percentage to start with when building a new industry. There is debate as to why they want more, is it just the fashion aspect or is there some genuine concern for their future health? The reality is that it’s probably a mixture of both and their desire for even more amazing gadgets seems likely to inspire an industry boom and technological revolution.

Yet, our group of 16 – 24 year olds aren’t the only ones pushing the wearable tech boat out to sea. Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, former NHS Medical Director outlined how wearable technology could help give independence to an aging population and those living with long term illnesses. Utilising this new technology in medical care could improve patient happiness and level of care, letting patients maintain as much independence as possible while still allowing their health to be monitored daily.

Another big selling point of wearable tech is, that it’s much cheaper to keep people healthy than it is to patch them up once they become ill and both Health institutions and large tech companies are seeing the potential for contracts and the commercial sale of helpful and attractive E-health items.

So it seems as if Sir Bruce is right and wearable technology will be a matter of course when it comes to future health care and just like having a smart phone. Almost everyone will have one, the only difference will be who’s the number one brand to have.

Twitter Explained – It’s as easy as one, two, TWEET!

Twitter, despite what you might think is not just for teenagers and twenty-somethings alone. In fact Twitter has evolved over the past few years to become a unique and helpful way for you to communicate with your patients. It allows you to promote flu clinics and news items, let patients know if phone lines go down and help you to connect with your local community.

Why is it relevant to us?

  • On Twitter, people talk about what they care about and what’s happening around them. Healthcare affects everyone and being able to engage with your local community about what’s affecting them the most can help you to help them.
  • Through following individuals on Twitter, people begin to feel like they know other tweeters, despite never meeting them in person. Showing your practice personality enables you to form relationships with your target audience and reach out to potential new patients.
  • It’s instantaneous! If you have an urgent announcement or even an event to promote then send a tweet. It also allows you to ask questions and respond to comments made by people.
  • It’s a great way of directing traffic towards your website and getting new patients. Post helpful links to information, online forms and surveys to increase your website traffic.
  • Educate your followers. Healthcare is ever changing and always topical. Twitter is a brilliant way to keep patients up to date with the latest news and important topics!

Who do I follow?

Here are a few suggestions to get you started on Twitter:

  • @NHSEngland – NHS England
  • @TheKingsFund – The King’s Fund – An independent charity working to improve healthcare in England
  • @gmcuk – General Medical Council
  • @bmj_latest – BMJ
  • @DHgovuk – Department of Health
  • @pulsetoday – Pulse Today – Medical news, views, education and clinical info for GPs
  • @bbchealth – BBC Health news
  • @HSJnews – Health Service Journal
  • Your area’s CCG
  • Other GP practices within your area

Download our Getting Started on Twitter Guide

How you can Improve your Patients’ Health Literacy

So what is Health Literacy and why is it so important?

The generally accepted definition of Health Literacy is that it is about an individual’s ability to find, read, understand and use information relating to their health. This is of course, important when it comes to encouraging patient involvement within their care and helping them to make informed decisions.

So what can I do?

Increasing Health Literacy can be done in simple practical ways such as getting patients to explain back instructions for taking medication, asking them to prepare any questions they might have before a consultation or by holding health events where complex subjects such as dementia care are explained in depth.

However, this doesn’t to reach patients when they are outside of the practice and need a high level of health literacy the most. In our everyday lives we are exposed to a barrage of health information from TV shows, magazines, websites and our friends and family. Some of this information is important and helpful but some of it isn’t as helpful or accurate as we’d like to believe it is. So, how do patients determine what the correct information is and what information they should ignore?

Well they need help, and by directing them to the correct information and providing helpful information, your website can help patients to increase their health literacy.

  1. Make sure that your website is full of helpful information, written in a simple and easy to understand way. Avoid using jargon and complex sentences, as this will alienate those patients with the lowest health literacy; which are the ones you want to reach the most.
  2. Allow patients to ask doctors questions through the website. This can be incredibly helpful when done correctly and let patients ask those little important questions, such as do I take the antibiotics twice a day or three times? Which they really don’t need an appointment for.
  3. Guide patients towards credible health websites, helping to point out the good sites from the bad can be especially helpful when patients are ill and in distress.
  4. Ensure that you explain clearly what the differences are between routine and serious issues. Excessive pain for example is subjective. What one person may view as excessive pain could really be the normal amount of pain you’d expect them to have after a treatment.
  5. Provide positive reinforcement as much as possible. People are much more likely to follow advice if it’s given in a nice way.
  6. Ensure your website always meets accessibility standards. Don’t use flashing red text everywhere as this is very difficult for many patients to read.

Download our complete Writing for the Web Guide