The summer break has clearly done the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, a world of good.
From beating a lone path as the libertarian Claudius in the face of a centralised health service, he has resurfaced this week as the man for all seasons to launch a competition for the best ideas for new mobile phone health applications. The public can also name their favourite health app. See also The Guardian today.
Good for him that’s what I say and what a good idea. The only criticism I have is that there is no money being put towards developing the winning ideas, no doubt because there’s none left after the NHS IT fiascos of late.
From The Guardian also comes an article in which the CEO of Cancer Research UK, Harpal KUmar, talks about this being a golden age for cancer research, as a presage to their next great push on clinical trials being launched next week.
One hopes that the brightest minds in the research community are putting the threads of these two stories together in potential entries to the Department of Health competition, apps that could be used as or as part of a clinical trial or, for instance, that patients could use to find out about trials – a sort of ‘clinical trials near me’ app. This certainly seems to be what is happening in the US as I have blogged before.
Being a mere consumer of (too) many apps and not a mobile phone app designer I can only vouch for the ‘simple is best’ view as to what works. So my favourite health app at the moment is ‘Stress Check’ designed by AIIR Consulting – the free version of which is basically a quick questionnaire which gives you a stress score and also allows you to track your stress levels over time.
Not wishing to incur the wrath of Ben Goldacre, the blurb for the app says it uses a research-based assessment tool but I’ve not checked this out to be honest.
I am more pleased to be honest that my stress score seems to have gone down from 75 to 63 in a month and not all because of my teepee holiday in Cornwall (actually I suspect it would have probably gone down more had I been on a holiday where everything was fitted i.e. bathroom, kitchen, children etc).
No, it may not have given me a deeper understanding of some of the causes of my stress but it has helped me to change my behaviour by a) engaging me b) giving me some stress management tips and c) by giving me a sense of progress. Quite simply, in helping me to focus on this potentially harmful aspect to my life it has done its job. That’s all I can say.