Technology provides a quick, convenient fix to many daily dilemmas today, but could it soon be crucial to our health?
Ordering your food shop online or tracking your exercise with your smartphone is becoming the norm, prompting one Wakefield firm to attempt to make the humble mobile phone even more essential to some people’s lives.
Following a grant of almost £500,000 from the Department of Health’s Small Business Research Initiative, private consultancy firm 365 Response is building software dubbed the healthcare equivalent of taxi app Uber.
The HealthCab app would give seriously ill renal patients, who are in need of regular appointments for kidney dialysis treatment, the chance to book NHS-funded transport to and from hospital through their smartphone, check the credentials of their taxi, ambulance or volunteer driver and track the vehicle’s movements by GPS.
Brendan Fatchett, director of 365 Response, said it also aims to create a new standard for NHS commissioners to regulate patient transport and the suitability of the vehicles and drivers being used.
“We think this is a very vulnerable group of patients and they should have knowledge and understand who’s picking them up,” he said. “It’s about making it easier for patients to access the journeys, take away incredibly long waits and take out the ‘do not attends’ and aborted journeys. It’s giving renal patients confidence that they can live their lives in a normal way, while not having to squeeze down their dialysis.”
Set to be trialled with a small number of renal patients who have ‘twilight’ dialysis sessions at night in Leeds in the coming months, Mr Fatchett believes the app could better regulate and organise patient transport.
After two failed kidney transplants Janice Richardson, from Horsforth, needs three crucial dialysis sessions a week at Seacroft Hospital to remove waste from her blood.
The 52-year-old voiced fears that cuts were impacting renal patients earlier this year, having seen her transport become increasingly unreliable.
While stating that she had seen the service improve since the turn of the year, she said: “Sometimes it’s just totally normal taxis turning up and they wouldn’t know how to deal with health emergencies – bringing in more regulation would really help people particularly at twilight hours.
“There are quite a lot of patients that have had to reduce dialysis times. Instead of four hours they’re doing three or three and a half and as soon as you’re doing that you’re putting your life at risk.”
Although HealthCab is yet to be brought in, it seems the idea of controlling fundamental aspects of your own healthcare through your smartphone isn’t all that far away.
DIALYSIS IS KEY TO THE LIVES OF PATIENTS
Dialysis is a form of treatment that replicates many of the kidney’s functions.
The process filters blood to rid your body of harmful waste, extra salt and water.
It’s often used to treat advanced chronic kidney disease (kidney failure), where the kidneys have lost most or all of their ability to function.
More than 40,000 people in the UK are affected by kidney failure, with more than half of those receiving dialysis.
Most people who need to have dialysis are over 65 years of age.