HOW can apps make healthcare better? Our phones have become indispensable tools that help us shape our lives.
They organise our days, keep us in touch with friends, and keep all our photos and documents in easy reach.
In that respect, they’re absolutely perfect for managing our health.
But while healthcare professionals may be great at putting us back together, they’re often slightly less confident about building an app.
It’s this sort of conversation that led to the creation of Handi last month. The organisation was set up by a coalition of health experts, developers and clinicians who wanted to link up the people with ideas to the people that could help develop them.
More than 200 people have expressed an interest in the organisation’s work, and Handi hopes to spread the word with an event in May.
Co-founder Louise Wilson said: “There are so many ideas out there. It’s simply a case of giving people that momentum to get them from an idea to the app store.”
Wilson is a programme manager for the NHS Northern Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Clinical Network, and has had previous experience of developing healthcare apps.
The ActiveME app was created to help patients track their activity levels, enabling them to manage their condition better.
She said: “There was a team in Bristol that developed activity charts, and we thought they would be great if adapted as an app.
“We got some project money to do it. We were doing it from scratch. It was a six-month project that took 18 months.”
Wilson argues app development is not just for big software companies, but says a support network can play a role in preventing app creators from making costly or time-consuming mistakes.
“Support will be offered on a range of topics, such as how to access relevant data, how to meet legal requirements and how to produce the best user interface.
She said: “It’s perfectly possible for people to develop apps, whether they’re clinicians or patients. Handi is about helping people to get it developed, and shortcutting away from as many of the problems as possible.
“It’s aimed at three main groups. The first is clinicians with an idea who may not know how to get started. The other is entrepreneurs or developers. Of course, there’s also the big healthcare and IT companies.”
Handi plans to have physical and virtual activities and events around the UK. Plans for London and Newcastle are underway, and it hopes to work with innovation centres in places such as Warwick, Cardiff and Edinburgh. There’s also an ambition to extend the networks across to other countries.
The first Newcastle event is pencilled in for May 9, when an “idea to app store” event is scheduled for Newcastle University Business School.
People with an interest in getting involved with Handi should go to www.handihealth.org
“We’re increasingly talking about the use of mobile phone applications for a whole range of tasks, from improving efficiency to collecting content,” said Wilson.
“I have so many conversations with people that start with someone saying: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have an app for that?’, and Handi is setting out to help people to do that.”