Bruce Hellman is the CEO and co-founder of uMotif, a socially-minded software company helping people to lead health, engaged and independent lives through simple technology. You can follow them on Twitter at @uMotif.
Taking care of our own health is something that humans have been doing for thousands of years. However, today many rely on the health service to keep them well, while others are disengaged with their own care. This can lead to worse treatments, higher costs and patients feeling their quality of care is low.
Part of the solution is to get people to engage more in their health and take better care of themselves. There is a growing move towards solutions that help this so-called health ‘self-management’.
It is encouraging to see that this focus on self-management has backing from across the health service in the UK. Over the last few months there have been a variety of statements, speeches, papers and policy documents from, among others, the Secretary of State, David Nicholson, NHS England, and the Kings Fund. Across the sector, there is a growing realisation that the NHS must encourage more people to take better care of themselves.
Helping move from our current illness service, to a true health and wellbeing service.
The need for greater care planning and self-management is perhaps best illustrated with statistics for those with Long Term Conditions. On average, people with chronic conditions will spend only 3 hours per annum with a health professional. For the rest of the year – over 8700 hours – they are largely on their own, having to lead and manage their own care.
If we are to improve healthcare, raise outcomes and lower costs, we must ensure that those 8700 hours are managed as well as they can be.
We now have the technology widely available at low or no cost to provide self-management support that is so urgently required. By embracing digital technology people can be supported, educated, informed and engaged year-round in a personal and convenient manner.
The win-win is that patients also compile a rich data set that gives clinicians the data they want to make better shared decisions with patients. For the first time clinicians don’t have to be in the dark about how patients have been doing between appointments.
There are, of course, some critical considerations in providing new health solutions. Data privacy and security is crucial – people have to own 100% of their data and be in charge of who sees it and where it gets sent.
Even with patients being in control, it’s also key to design services that don’t feel like Big Brother is watching. New tools have to strike a balance between supportive information for clinicians, without patients feeling like it’s a negative ‘have to’ part of life. Self-management software must be on the patient’s terms, becoming a ‘want to’ part of daily routines.
So how do these technologies develop from use by early adopters, to becoming a mainstream part of clinical care? We think this will happen with and through clinicians – where tools are primarily used by patients, but which also help improve care.
Doing this is easier said than done, as adoption by clinicians requires robust evidence. And as one of our Clinical Advisors keeps saying “it’s got to be rooted in the biology”. Meaning that how, why and when software is used must relate back to clinical care and the patient-clinician relationship.
At uMotif, we’re building a software platform to help people track, monitor, engaged in and manage their health. We aim to be part of the exciting and growing digital health ecosystem, with beautiful tools that integrate with a variety of devices, services and software packages.
We’re currently planning a second multi-centre trial in Parkinson’s in the UK, and are working with Digital Life Sciences and the Year Zero consortium on a 2,000 patient diabetes trial. Undertaking clinical trials to provide the evidence that will drive mainstream uptake of self-management and care planning tools.