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Scottish doctor's health app downloaded 8,000 times

21 June 11 06:59
Hand-held tablet computer with apps
By Eleanor Bradford
BBC Scotland Health Correspondent

A new app for smartphones and tablets designed by the Scottish NHS has become one of the most popular free medical apps available for download.

It outlines what kind of care patients should expect when they suffer from particular medical conditions.

The SIGN app (SIGN stands for the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network) was the idea of Prof John Kinsella.

He works in intensive care at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary, and is also a member of an NHS organisation called Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Prof Kinsella realised he needed a quicker way of accessing the latest NHS guidelines.

"The problem is that clinical guidance is sometimes in a paper form which is difficult to find, or it can be accessed on the internet which means logging in and often you've got to log out of some other programme first," he said.

"In that period you are losing valuable time when you should be doing some other task. It is basically a delay, and sometimes a delay prevents you from doing it at all."

Mobile phones no longer interfere with medical equipment, meaning doctors and other medical staff can use smartphones and hand-held tablet computers while working on the ward.

The app, which was initially available for iPhones but is now also available to Android phones, has proved a surprise hit.

It offers guidelines on a wide range of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, diabetes and the management of asthma and psoriasis.

Although it has not been advertised, it has been downloaded more than 8,000 times since it was launched in April.

"The real advantage is that these guidelines are easy to access by members of the public," said Prof Kinsella.

"It is entirely logical that if you have a certain condition, it is very useful for you to be able to look up what care you should expect to receive.

"This empowers patients and makes the discussion between the doctor and patient much more well informed."

As well as being a useful gadget if you live in the UK, the app is also being downloaded by smartphone users all over the world.

Dr Helena Liira is a GP in Finland.

She said: "I could use it to update my information on the diseases that are covered. I can check whether my practice is according to the guidelines.

"I cannot use it for all purposes because it only covers, at the moment, 11 topics so it is quite limited but it is a good way to check what's going on in these important diseases."

As NHS Scotland produces more guidance on a larger range of conditions the SIGN app will be updated.

The app also has the potential to save the NHS money by being more environmentally friendly.

Until now Healthcare Improvement Scotland has had to print more than 15,000 paper copies of every guideline it produces.

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