'Give patients smartphones' call

Smartphones Mobile phone apps are expected to be used increasingly by the health service

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Giving cheap smartphones to patients living in remote and rural areas has been suggested as a way of providing faster and more cost effective care.

App designer Geoff Wilcock told BBC Radio Scotland's Out of Doors programme it would give people access to software that could be created for the NHS.

Mr Wilcox said apps could aid in consultations and cut waiting times.

The Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare said patients expected greater use of technology.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) held a workshop on mobile phone applications last month.

The agency said that by 2014 it was expected that some 77 billion apps will have been downloaded from the Android and Apple phone markets.

Mr Wilcock, who took part in the workshop, said the NHS could provide patients with low-cost smartphones.

He said: "I am a diabetic and I quite easily sympathise with anyone who has to go on a two to three hour trip for a 20 minute meeting with a clinical nurse, or a doctor.

"Very expensive or valuable clinicians are also driving out for long periods to spend equally short times with the patient."

Mr Wilcock said some of the journeys could be avoided by conducting consultations using apps.

"If someone provided me with an application to fill out with information that will mean you will get treated in three weeks, or you can do it the other way which is three months, I know which I would choose."

Dwynwen Hopcroft, from Connecting Carers, said it was looking at a number of ideas for apps that would help carers better understand services available to them and the people they look after.

Anne Reoch, of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare, which is part of NHS 24, predicted the use of apps by the health service would become increasingly important.

She said: "People expect it and want it. They go into banks, things are run very efficiently technically. You go into other services that the public use on a regular basis and things are run by technical means. We do expect it."

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