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Good Or Bad? – IPhone Medical Negligence Apps

In February this year the government announced its support for GPs to prescribe apps to patients with chronic conditions like asthma to elp them manage them.
 
The move towards more patient power and self-management of long-term health conditions was encouraged by New Labour.

The trend for self management has spread across the board, from patients being able to choose how NHS funding is spent on their condition via personal care packages – to being able to choose which hospital performs an operation and the funding for ops and healthcare following the patient.
 
However, the use of medical apps takes self management a stage further – and if something goes wrong, or there is an error or malfunction in the app which results in patient harm, who is to blame?
 
Developers of apps are required to indemnify Apple from any legal liability – and if Apple is implicated in a claim against an app, the developer is required to pay Apple’s legal costs. The range of apps available now runs into thousands, many of which cover health screening and even pregnancy testing.
 
There are apps for taking blood pressure and pulse rate, counting calories, checking BMI, and even checking eyesight – crucial for drivers.
 
The sort of apps doctors might recommend might be apps for diabetes management, asthma management, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, HIV – in fact, any long-term health condition which required the patient to exert some control over the management of their condition in between check ups.
 
If an app gives an inaccurate result, however – or a patient makes a misjudgement in the management of their own condition and comes to harm – who is to blame?
 
The rise in medical negligence cases and the setting up of an NHS compensation pot to cover cases of medical negligence has been blamed by some for fuelling a compensation culture and the rise of the trend in No win No fee claims.
 
GPs now also have personal indemnity insurance against medical negligence claims.
 
In February the Department of Health called the use of apps by GPs as the “next step” in patients managing their own health.
 
In May the government announced that technology and using ‘available information’ for patient care would be at the heart of its strategy – dubbed the ‘power of information’ – to give people more control over their healthcare.
 
“The Information Strategy for health and care also opens up information to consumer groups and IT specialists outside the NHS, so they can produce tailored websites and apps for different patients,” the government announced.
 
“By providing NHS and care information to creative experts, the government expects to see new products and services being offered to patients.”
 
How creative experts respond to the challenge and manage the care information for patient apps will be crucial.
 
And for those who have not yet joined the age of technology and for whom apps are not a part of everyday life – for example, some elderly patients – the very technology intended to make patient care more accessible might actually represent the biggest hurdle to gaining vital information and therefore care.
 
And if something goes wrong, will it be medical negligence – or eventually, will it be every patient’s responsibility to be able to manage their own condition using an app?
 
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:
 
“Our health and care reforms are about making life easier for people. If people are going to be able to choose with their doctor which hospital will provide them with the best care, they will need all the latest information.
 
“Our plans will ensure that they get this from their doctors, as well as online from websites and cutting edge apps.
 
“By pushing ahead with our information revolution, we will ensure that every NHS patient will be able to say that ‘no decision about me was made without me’.” Providing you can use an app.
 
There is no doubt that some apps can be useful, sending patient information such as blood pressure readings straight to a GP as part of an integrated healthcare system – or even dialling the emergency services in the event of an emergence or accident.
 
When technology works, it works very well – but when it doesn’t, will it be the medical negligence lawyers who will again be helping patients to pick up the pieces after a system which has failed them?
 
If you think a doctor or a medical professional has wrong diagnosed you, or not given you the health care you require you could claim Medical Negligence Compensation.


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