The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is backing a slew of apps and wireless sensors that could help save lives and diagnose patients remotely. RespiraSense, for instance, is a small device that sticks to the side of the user's rib cage. A plaster-shaped sensor measures breathing through the chest and abdomen, before processing and transmitting that information through a small plastic capsule. It can help detect a number of life-threatening conditions including sepsis, a blood infection that causes the body to attack its own organs. Doctors can access the data on a tablet and receive alerts when a patient's breathing hits a dangerous threshold.
The NHS is also championing HaMpton, an app for pregnant women who might be at risk of pre-eclampsia. The condition, characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, usually occurs 20 weeks into a pregnancy. HaMPton allows users to carry out their own blood pressure readings and urine tests at home; the results, along with a short survey, are then recorded in the app and processed by a hospital computer. The alternative — twice-weekly tests at a Maternity Assessment Unit — can be stressful for patients and increases the burden on stretched NHS hospitals.
Other highlights include Waitless, an app that tells patients with minor injuries the fastest way to be treated, and Dip.io, a home urine test that allows patients to check for chronic kidney diseases, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and pre-eclampsia. They all fall under the NHS Innovation Accelerator, a programme designed to increase innovation and use of technology in the healthcare sector. Selected projects have access to experts and mentors inside the NHS, workshops and webinars, and, crucially, bursaries to aid their development. They're all in a trial phase, but it's hoped the best will become standard NHS procedure some day.