An interview with Claire Williams from Evergreen Life, at the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo 2018, discussing the importance of patient empowerment and how technology is allowing the health service to take a more holistic approach to care.
Why is it important to empower patients with the ability to take control of their health and wellbeing?
Considering our slogan is People Powered Health, the Evergreen Life app is all about empowering patients to take control of their own health and well-being.
One part of this is giving patients a platform from which they can keep track of their personal health information, for example, the app allows you to record any health information you want - your blood pressure or blood sugar readings, or when you need to take your next dose of medication.
We know that patient wellbeing also plays a massive role in overall health, so our app allows you to monitor things like your weight, health, and fitness.
Looking back at the data allows you to learn about yourself without having to ask a clinician, and from this, you may feel more empowered to take control of your own health.
We live in a culture where patients go to doctors and say “Doctor, tell me what’s wrong?”. Our mission is to turn this around and to give patients more knowledge and understanding about their health than anyone else.
An example would be diabetes. If you’re a diabetic, you might see multiple healthcare professionals in various settings. They will give you great information, but the problem is it’s not joined up. If you could record this information yourself and keep it all in one place, you can become better at managing your condition.
What is the Personal Health Record app?
Your health is personal to you, so your health record should belong to you too. The personal health record allows you to add and manage your health information.
You are in control of the information and you can share it with whoever you want to, with the click of a button!
You can also get access to your GP medical record. From here, you can make appointments, order repeat prescriptions and download your GP medical record. We’re the only app connected to all three major GP systems in England.
There are times in our lives when a single record could be vital to our health. Patients might expect that the NHS has a complete electronic record of everything related to their health conditions, but it doesn’t exist anywhere in its entirety. That's where the Evergreen Life app comes in.
How is this technology changing the lives of patients in the UK?
It’s changing their lives by giving them control.
Many patients may take several medications over the course of their condition, and using the app, they can add any medication they take, as well as download their GP prescribed medicines into their personal health record – and they’re able to indicate what they’re still taking – giving the patient the most up to date medications record that exists anywhere.
This means health professionals and patients can have more informed discussions around managing medications.
This allows the patient to feel more involved and in control of their condition, whilst also saving the NHS money on medicine errors and wastage.
We’re also helping free up GP appointments. The NHS loses millions every year from missed appointments, simply because people do not have the time to phone up and cancel or may have forgotten.
Using the Evergreen Life app, they can cancel their appointment quickly and easily without having to contact the surgery.
Another way we are improving patient outcomes is reducing the need for multiple appointments. For example, we received a case study from a lady who was feeling a little unwell, so went to her pharmacy to ask for a vitamin D check.
The pharmacist, who was following best practice, said “Oh no, you’ll have to go back to your GP and get a referral”.
However, the lady had been tracking her vitamin D levels herself, through access to her GP record, and upon seeing this, the pharmacist was able to read her notes and do the check immediately.
This not only reduces waiting times for an appointment and saves money for the NHS but transforms the patient journey.
What do clinicians say about this technology?
Access to patient records through the app has to be enabled by a GP, and there’s still huge national education piece to be done to help educate practices about why it’s a good thing for both practice and patients to use online services.
We’re in the transition period between health professionals holding all of the responsibility and releasing some of that responsibility onto patients.
However, clinicians who have used our app find it to be very useful and much more user friendly than the systems they are used to. We are often told that it’s visually nice to look at, is highly intuitive and is quite easy to sync with their records.
When we were developing the app, one of our development team members was looking after her elderly mother. Her mother had lots of co-morbidities and was on numerous medications.
By keeping all of her mother’s health information stored within a personal health record, a doctor was able to easily recognize that all of her health conditions were actually just symptoms of a single disease; Vasculitis GPA.
This revelation meant that her mum received the right treatment and could prevent further deterioration of her health. The clinician was amazed by the amount of information that we had recorded ourselves and found it very easy to quickly identify what was wrong.
How do you think the technology will evolve as the UK population grows?
A year ago today it was announced that this decade will be the one in which patients become empowered, and we’re all about that.
The NHS is an amazing institution that takes care of us all, but for it to be sustainable we need to start taking some responsibility for our own care.
A part of this is prevention, which can be achieved through small, incremental changes to your lifestyle. This reduces the NHS having to treat conditions that are the result of years of personal neglect, which costs a fortune.
One of the ways we’re helping to achieve this is through DNA genetic testing. We analyze 84 different Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) which are areas of genetic variation within a person’s DNA.
This information allows us to predict whether a patient might have a genetic potential, for example, low carbohydrate metabolism, or they’re more likely to lose fat with strength exercise rather than cardio.
These insights can help people tailor their diet or exercise routine that’s unique to them, rather than trying fad diets or the latest fitness craze and not getting results. This is just another way that we are helping people take a more proactive approach to their own health and wellbeing.
The cultural challenge is huge. As a society, we only tend to think about our health once we get sick. Our mission is to help patients start thinking about their wellbeing early, to live healthier, happier lives.
Where can readers find more information?
The Evergreen Life app is free to download on Apple app store and Google Play. For more information about the app visit www.evergreen-life.co.uk and for more information about Evergreen Life DNA tests, visit www.evergreen-life.co.uk/dna-/genetic-testing.
About Evergreen Life
Evergreen Life’s personal health record app puts people at the heart of every decision involving their health. Over half a million people are taking control of their own health and medication information with Evergreen Life.
We’re connected to the three major NHS GP systems, EMIS, TPP and Vision, giving 55 million people across England access to their GP record. Through this, people can book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view their GP medical record.