Prescribing digital videos could help NHS deal with chronic diseases

Videos and digital interactions with patients are being prescribed as part of a pre-trial to see if they encourage patients with chronic diseases to better manage their conditions

Videos and digital interactions with patients are being prescribed as part of a pre-trial to find out whether they allow patients with chronic diseases to better manage their conditions.

This month, the NHS will begin a service evaluation in South Wales with patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. GPs will prescribe a series of films for patients to watch in their own time to help them understand their condition.

The Pocket Medic solution, with its archive of videos, will be available to selected GPs as a web app, but there are hopes to integrate it with NHS prescription systems in future.

The films can be accessed by patients online. After watching them, patients are encouraged to fill in a feedback form via email to note down details of their condition which is then sent back to medical staff.

Last year, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust conducted a small scale service evaluation with physiotherapy patients who have been prescribed a series of films to explain their condition. 

Patients were also encouraged to fill in feedback forms, while the email service was used to send patients reminders to do physio exercises doctors prescribe.

Advocate for the Pocket Medic solution, Dr Carl Brooke, divisional medical director for medical services, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the results from the service evaluation suggested a better improvement to patients in a shorter timescale than normal.

Patients did not have to book face-to-face appointments as often, freeing up doctor and nurse time and potentially saving NHS money. Brooke also said that the Trust saw more engagement with patients, while far fewer people failed to make their appointments.

Speaking at the Gov Today Digital Healthcare event in London today, Brooke said this solution could help at a time when the UK is facing many chronic conditions and an ageing population.

While life expectancy of the UK has increased in recent years, so too has the number of chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, which patients have to manage as they get older. The average number of conditions an elderly person would deal with is four, but Brooke said this can reach seven or eight.

The NHS is facing more demand from patients but, due to healthcare cuts, it cannot meet through face-to-face consultations.

“The ability of the internet to help patients manage and monitor their own disease and feedback to a range of medical personnel in the long term improves the quality of care, while their sense of engagement goes up,” said Brooke.

He also noted the human brain is more efficient at taking in information when it is delivered through vision and speech. In fact the brain processes this 60,000 times faster than text, while it retains the information better by six to seven times.

“At the moment we have not explored this information route in anywhere near its full potential,” added Brooke.

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