Smartphones for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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There is a wide spectrum of disease among patients with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, including patients whose disease is well controlled and those who need more intensive management. In addition to the geographic challenge of delivering high quality health in rural areas, there is a professional challenge to general practitioners who may only have one patient with Crohn’s or colitis in his/her practice.

Previous studies have demonstrated that using static telephones to follow up IBD patients improves patient satisfaction with their care. The use of smartphones to help deliver more personalised health care has not been tested in a scientific setting. This study will examine if we can build a software application for smartphones that can be used by patients to record their symptoms.

The symptoms have been carefully chosen so that we can use them to score how severe the disease is. This data is then transferred using the mobile phone network to an NHS computer. Each patient will have a range of symptoms that can be displayed graphically, and if any of the symptoms deviate from a normal level, this will alert both the patient (via the smartphone) and the IBD nurse. Once alerted, the IBD nurse will use either the smartphone or a designated landline to hold a consultation. The IBD nurse will use a clinical management template and his/her judgement to help direct the patient’s care appropriately.

As well as testing the technology, we are also going to measure if the use of the smartphone improves IBD patients’ health and wellbeing. We will use a variety of measures to record what impact the technology has on their disease, quality of life and the number of contacts with their GP and hospital doctor. We will also measure how many times they use the application.

Many patients with Crohn’s and colitis struggle to take the medication that has been prescribed for their disease management. There are a number of reasons for this. The phone ‘app’ can be used to record which medications have been prescribed and how often the patient takes them. This compliance rate is very valuable in helping us direct patient care.

We believe that the use of smartphone technology may also help improve the care of other groups of patients with chronic medical conditions. Patients with asthma, diabetes, chronic pulmonary disease and depression may benefit from the use of mobile phone technology.

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Demonstrator Project team leader: Gillian Galloway


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