Software helps rural patients manage chronic conditions


Software helps rural patients manage chronic conditions

21 April 2011 | By Stephen Harris

A project using mobile phones to help rural sufferers of chronic diseases manage their conditions has received £1.6m of funding.

Researchers from the UK and India plan to develop mobile-based software that allows patients to monitor their treatment of illnesses such as diabetes and depression while exchanging information with their doctors.

They hope it will be particularly useful for people who live in the country, in both developed and developing countries, and find visiting the doctor regularly difficult, costly or time consuming.

The platform will be a way for users to interact with their doctors remotely and for patients, clinicians and carers to monitor progress, according to Prof Peter Edwards, the project’s principal investigator at lead partner Aberdeen University.

‘For example, diabetes patients could have a mobile device that prompts them about diet and exercise,’ he told The Engineer.

‘They may wear a sensor that can communicate using Bluetooth to the phone to indicate how mobile they are being. That forms a record that can be communicated to an information repository, which can then build up a profile of their behaviour.

‘Then you want tools that allow them to review it, and carers and clinicians to review it. Clinicians might then want to put additional prompts in that can trigger messages to the mobile.’

The TRUMP (Trusted Mobile Platform for the Self-Management of Chronic Illness in Rural Areas) project includes Newcastle, City, Lancaster and Northumbria universities, with the India team led by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.

They are supported by £1.6m from Research Councils UK (RCUK) and further funds from the Indian Department of Science and Technology as part of a wider joint project entitled Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide (BURD).

TRUMP will also study how to deal with the trust issues created by the recording and sharing of medical information.

‘There’s trust from the patient’s perspective in terms of who is going to see this information but there is also trust from the clinician’s perspective in terms of whether what is recorded is really what the patient is doing,’ said Edwards.

‘There’s already work being done with mobile phones on depression, where one of the big issues is adhering to medication.

‘They’ve been trialling SMS technology to remind patients to take their medication and again there’s an issue of trusting the patients to do what they say they are doing.’
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