Wearable tech in the NHS has potential for 'lifestyle advice to replace medication'

Wearables in the NHS ‘opens the potential for lifestyle advice to replace medication’, the chief medical officer at leading medical software vendor EMIS told ComputerworldUK.


Streaming wearable data to patient medical records in the NHS ‘opens the potential for lifestyle advice to replace medication’, the chief medical officer at leading medical software vendor EMIS told ComputerworldUK.

Software provider EMIS have produced a Personal Health Record that lets primary care patients stream their fitness tracker data through the Apple HealthKit app, to their own medical record.  

Around half of all GP practices in the UK use EMIS Web software, which has an option for patients to opt in to share their data this way. This offers a host of benefits to both patients and the NHS as a whole, CMO Dr Shaun O’Hanlan said.

“A GP could view results of blood pressure readings taken at home and at the surgery on the same graph in EMIS Web", for example.

“Patients can choose whether or not to share the information in their Personal Health Record (PHR) with their doctor (who cannot view the PHR without the patient’s permission). When shared however, the PHR can provide clinicians with a more comprehensive insight into their patients’ overall health than has ever been possible before. This heralds the arrival of ‘precision medicine’ to the NHS, which will be transformational in how we all interact with the health service and look after our own health and wellbeing”, he added.

Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England, said last week that the public would be able to add wearable data to their electronic patient record by 2018 - and that popular tracker Fitbit should be able to integrate too.

Public perception?

Meanwhile Care.data, a controversial government scheme to extract individuals’ medical records from GP practices, was last week dubbed ‘unachievable’ and it was recommended its future was ‘reassessed’, in a government report. While Care.data was halted following poor public perception last year, it is possible that patients may be more willing to part with their fitness and heart-rate data if it saves them a trip to the GP.

EMIS’ Dr O’Hanlon added: “We know of one patient who uses the PHR to monitor her asthma in conjunction with her GP, enabling her to request medication without having to visit the surgery.

“Other clinicians see it as a possible solution for ‘white coat hypertension, the phenomenon where some people’s blood pressure soars when they are in the GP surgery, potentially resulting in their being prescribed inappropriate medication.

While wearable data is limited at the moment, GPs could one day tailor treatment based on the information they provide, he explains.

“It also opens the potential for lifestyle advice to replace medication in some circumstances and for clinicians to engage with difficult to reach groups, such as teenage diabetes patients, who enjoy using technology but do not like to visit their GP.”

our intention to investigate the feasibility of converting the entire NHS estate into a free Wi-fi zone. This will allow doctors, nurses and care staff to develop modern and dynamic ways of working, such as using tablets to record vital signs, helping to reduce the administrative burden currently estimated to take up to 70% of a junior doctor’s day, freeing up more time to be spent with patients.

Wifi across the NHS

The National Information Board met this month to discuss feasibility of installing wifi across the entire NHS estate. 

This could open up the possibilities for wearables to be used to monitor patients while in hospital. It could also allow doctors and NHS managers to "track patients on their journey through hospital, helping to ensure that they are always taken to the right ward and giving a more accurate picture of patient flow" a representative for NHS England stated in a recent post on its website.