Smartphone tech helps asthma patient breathe more easily

A pioneering asthma patient is using smartphone records to request vital medication that will prevent an attack - without having to visit her GP.

Kate Warriner is among the first NHS patients to "bridge the gap" between health information on her iPhone and her GP medical records as millions turn to smartphone health and fitness monitoring apps and devices, including the new Apple Watch.

She uses her iPhone to store results of regular "peak flow" lung tests in her EMIS Group Personal Health Record (PHR), which is accessed through the Patient Access app.

Once she authorises her doctor to view her PHR alongside her GP medical records, he can make informed decisions about the strength of medication she needs and issue a prescription.

The PHR from EMIS Group could enable GPs to make better-informed decisions when treating patients with a range of problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and weight issues.

"I record my peak flows on my iPhone and share that information with my GP," says Kate, who is in her early 30s and lives in Liverpool.

"I have a rescue prescription which I initiate as part of my self management of my condition, depending on my signs and symptoms, including my peak flow readings. If I need to initiate my rescue medication, it's really easy for me to email my GP and share my peak flow information in my PHR

"It means he has a complete record of my readings alongside my GP medical history and can prescribe me further medication as I need it to manage my condition effectively.

"Using my PHR also makes it easier for me to manage my condition on a daily basis, helping me to identify the things that trigger an episode, such as weather conditions, allergies, or certain times of year.

"I was diagnosed with asthma in my late teens and have a plan in place to recognise the triggers and signs when my condition needs some intervention," adds Kate, a keen musician who plays flute and saxophone.

EMIS' personal health record - integrated with Apple's HealthKit - enables UK citizens to manage their own health in partnership with their GP and other health professionals. More than 6,500 users have logged 1.1 million pieces of information since the PHR was launched five months ago.

Patients connect with their PHR via the Patient Access smartphone app, which can also be used to book GP appointments and view life-long medical records.

Kate's GP, Dr Bapi Biswas, a GP at the Beacon Primary Care Medical Practice in Ormskirk, Lancashire, said: "The power and the timing of the release of the PHR will improve efficiency in health and social care. Importantly it will allow patients to become informed partners in their care.

"Having been in practice for over 20 years I have seen good quality accessible electronic patient records allow clinicians to improve the care that patients receive in ways that were not previously conceivable.

"Our practice has released over 4,000 full records to patients registered here. I have watched patients accessing to their own records to become informed recipients of healthcare."

Dr Shaun O'Hanlon, Chief Medical Officer at EMIS Group, said: "Many millions of people are using smartphone apps and medical devices to record health and fitness data but few have yet bridged the gap to the clinicians caring for them.

"The Personal Health Record belongs to the patient, who has total control over it. However, patients are increasingly keen to use smartphones to capture information which could be useful to the clinicians treating them.

"This could prove invaluable in helping patients to take a more active role in managing their own health."

For more information about the Personal Health Record visit patient.info/personal-health-record