GPs are seeing just 7 in every 100 patients face-to-face because of the coronavirus outbreak, following a “remarkable” shift to online and telephone appointments across England. In contrast, fewer than 1% of appointments were done via video link in 2019, with 80% in person, BBC analysis shows. (April 11th, 2020)
Early in the first lockdown my elderly father (pictured right), who has late-stage dementia, started to have regular and increasingly harmful falls. Eventually he fell face down onto concrete, smashing his glasses into his face and breaking his nose.
During the course of the discussion with his GP about his history, recent accidents and his medications, I suddenly remembered that at home I had a digital thermometer, a pulse oximeter, for measuring blood oxygen levels, and a blood pressure monitor. These were items that I had purchased whilst in a role supporting early-stage medical technology businesses and entrepreneurs. I offered to the GP that I could measure my father’s vital signs with these devices, phone or email her back with the results, and that might assist her in making a decision about the next steps. She agreed.
Very early in in the pandemic a high temperature, indicative of a fever, was considered a symptom of possible infection. Low blood oxygen levels were also being talked about as a consequence of severe infection in some patients.
On taking the measurements his temperature and oxygen levels were in the normal ranges. His blood pressure, however, was low, and was probably a contributing factor to his frequent falls.
After sharing the results with his GP she was able to instruct changes to his medications and things quickly improved. He has had no falls since.
I shared my experience with a colleague and commented that it would be good to have an app where you could record information, using off-the-shelf medical devices, and share it with your GP prior to having a remote consultation yourself or on behalf of a loved one.
Her background is in innovating and developing medical devices, but she is also a trained nurse. Her response was “yes, BUT, you need to make sure that people know how to take readings accurately to make a valuable contribution to the GP’s assessment of the patient’s condition.”
Bringing our experiences together, and with a small amount of funding secured under Innovate UK’s Business Led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption (Covid-19) competition, we have designed, delivered and launched the Me2GP app. The app:
- Educates users in how to best use a wide range of off-the-shelf home health measurement equipment using simple instructions and animations so that users are confident and capable of obtaining robust measurements
- Allows users to record their health data, or that of their loved ones, and store it safely and securely on their mobile devices
- Enables the user to share their data with key people: GPs, other health professionals, carers and family members, by text or email.