Nellie® is an SMS-based system underpinned by Simple Telehealth methodology, that’s been designed to encourage patient self-care, promote positive behaviour activation and improve the effectiveness of ongoing treatment.
“I do visualise Nellie as someone, giving me a prompt. She’s quite persistent!”
We worked closely with Simple Telehealth and SEMPHN bringing together evidence-based methodology, clinical best practice and modern software design to develop a clinical system where clinicians and patients can interact and communicate easily. The Nellie® system is designed for clinicians, by clinicians, allowing Doctors and Nurses to collaborate on the management of patient communications.
“Initially, it was somebody texting me, but now it’s become a friend”
One of the important outcomes of Nellie® is the social impact it’s had. The SMS and chatbot technologies have proven to enable positive behaviour changes.
“We’ve had some real success stories with Nellie®, from an educational perspective. People who’ve never exercised before consistently developing an exercise programme and really starting to understand the benefits of exercise”
We created a highly resilient, responsive system by working with existing Simple Telehealth methodology to develop the technology. The system creates best practice healthcare, advice and patient education, improved engagement and adherence and better and faster clinical outcomes.
We built the system with security as a key feature to ensure patient confidentiality, as well as considering the integration of third-party technologies with scalability in mind. The system is capable of being expanded internationally and scaling up to reach a wider end user.
The evaluation has started to give us the evidence we expected, suggesting the system is having a clinical impact. The Nellie® project demonstrates the ways in which even the most basic of technology is capable of kickstarting behaviour activation and encourages the continuation of a healthy routine.
“Since the introduction of Nellie® I’ve been motivated to walk and lost 7kg in weight. We’ve reduced a couple of tablets from 20mg to 5mg. Heart medication – 2 tablets a day to one, insulin, I was on 30 units, and now that’s down to 15 units a day, maybe 10. I’m amazed at the results”
To find out more, contact Carl at Bitjam.
It seems the UK isn’t the only country frustrated at the state of their healthcare system. American businesses have also voiced their concerns over the rapidly spiralling cost of medical treatment.
This has led to the allegiance of some of America’s biggest corporations, including Amazon, to team up to form their own independent healthcare company for employees, based on data that they’ve gathered themselves (perhaps world domination is next?!)
And if the venture indeed launches and becomes integrated within the company, how long will it be until Amazon rolls out the system to the wider consumer?
Virtual Healthcare Assistants?
Amazon is one of several large tech companies who’ve ventured in to the world of virtual assistants, with the launch of Amazon Alexa in November 2014.
The voice-responsive AI can be called upon to assist with all sorts of digital tasks such as prompting connected apps or ordering products online. Amazon have been able to learn the behaviours and preferences of the consumer, and have drawn data from these statistics that have led them to them confidently moving into the world of healthcare.
Given that many people already “self-diagnose” using websites such as WebMD to validate their symptoms, (you can also activate this site using a virtual assistant such as Alexa or Google Home), it wouldn’t be unthinkable to imagine a time where we seek medical advice from the comfort of our own homes.
Having access to fast, effective medical solutions solves healthcare system issues such as a lack of workforce and wait time, and potentially reduce the spread of disease.
Home health aides are testing the use of Amazon’s Echo platform to assist elderly patients. They are finding this system gives clients more access to family members and assistance to ensure they get their medication on time. Other tech companies are now rushing to capitalise on this opportunity and provide similar services.
But what about the challenges? It would be both illegal and morally wrong to sell prescription drugs next to toys and household products. AI could potentially obtain inaccurate data leading to misdiagnosis or ineffective advice. There’s also the loss of human interaction, resulting in an impersonal experience, a lack of empathy and trust, and potentially increased paranoia around sickness.
“What we’re seeing is going to be a whole new look at privacy. HIPAA regulations … [are] 20 years old — and they don’t even take into account the technology and the data processing capability that we have today. There have to be a lot of adjustments before this becomes part of routine practice.” – Dr Eric Topol Scripps Health.
What the Health Tech Experts Think
Here’s how some experts believe an Amazon healthcare system might be adopted:
“Amazon, for example, might see that a customer has bought cough drops every week for the last month, and went to the doctor for a cold six weeks before but never filled his prescription. Amazon, or an “Amazon-like company” could use that kind of insight to encourage consumers to go back to the doctor, or drop by a nearby clinic for a nurse practitioner to examine them. That could solve the problem of getting the wrong care.” – Gil Irwin PwC
“One day, we could tell Echo our ailments and have recommendations and potentially some drug recommendations, which they could fulfill if they also have doctors available in live chat on an Echo Show device,” – Wendell Potter Tarbell.
AI’s and virtual assistants have been adopted into the mainstream very successfully, so it will be interesting to see how the IoT filters throughout our homes and personal lives to the point of acceptable dependency, even when it comes to our own health. We’ve noticed ourselves at Bitjam that we’re being approached by an increasing amount of businesses and researchers, including NHS, with regards to IoT projects.
What Bitjam are Doing
We have experimented with Alexa building simple question and answer skills based on health information (the core feature of Alexa). We have begun to think ahead with new products we’re developing integrating data design features for a plug and play capability into Amazon Alexa at future dates. It’s better to make small changes in data design earlier on rather than an after-thought.
To get in touch about your own IoT project, contact Carl for a chat at [email protected] (you could even tell Alexa to email him for you!)
It’s never been easier for patients to be more connected to healthcare solutions. Learning about disease or making a doctor’s appointment can be done at the click of a button. Cutting-edge technologies are being conjured up every day, paving the way for the future of revolutionary healthcare. Yet there’s still one huge challenge: late adopters. Those usually of an older generation – although not limited to – who are change-resistant to modern technology.
Changing a Mindset
They may dislike it, lack the time to understand it, be wary of it or simply don’t realise the benefits. Ironically these are people who could benefit the most from the assistance of healthcare technology. While ground-breaking research and dramatic ideas and inventions help the system to plan for the future, if there are still patients resisting even the most straight-forward digital solutions, growth and development will be slow.
The issue isn’t that of user experience or reliability, since the tech is relatively simple and straightforward to use. The real change needs to be made socially and culturally. Educating patients so that digital healthcare solutions become acceptable and adapted in to their routine with minimal upheaval.
To create genuine harmony between patients, providers and digital healthcare systems, emphasis needs to be on patient empowerment. Showing them how to gain the easiest access to their information without causing unnecessary stress or concern. This will be a challenge for GP’s and other healthcare providers as they will have to incorporate this extra time into the patient appointment or other method of contact. It will be the responsibility of the provider to ensure the patient leaves feeling confident.
Focusing on Adoption
Technology is fast-advancing, with some complex research being carried out that focuses on the future of healthcare technology in 10-15 years time. While this is exciting, Bitjam are equally championing the “boring” tech – so described because it’s been accessible for a number of years now and most people are already using and relying on it everyday – such as messaging and GPS. Even mobile web browsers are a vehicle for application-like experiences.
Ubiquitous technologies can be used to develop large-scale solutions that engage a wide range of users and importantly increases adoption with healthcare providers. While it’s exciting to exist on the fringes of innovation with technology it’s important that existing health tech solutions work well, are scalable and are adopted widely. The skill and innovation is understanding how to get the maximum value from these technologies and deploy them effectively.