Sunday, 7 July 2013

BMJ Hack- Developing ideas and relationships (and a little bit of software!)

Home blood pressure recording app for diagnosis of from Anne Marie Cunningham

What a weekend!

I have to admit that yesterday morning getting up before 7am to go to London for BMJ Hack didn't seem such a great idea. It was going to be a beautiful sunny weekend and I was going to spend it inside thinking about how we could use some of the BMJ datasets to address 4 key challenges.

I was most interested in the 'digital student' theme- what could we do for medical education in a weekend? Fortunately there were some wonderful students about! Jon Hilton worked with a team to gamify the questions in OnExamination to try and make answering practice exam questions more fun. And I spent a good chunk of the day working with Tom Lewis, Mike Eddy and Alice Pallot on developing a calendar tool that would help students know about the learning opportunities happening around them when out on placement. I loved this. Even more amazing was that the whole development was done by two sixth-form students Harry  and Vesko.

As we drifted into the evening the conversations continued. Rewired State had organised the hackday in a wonderful venue, The Hub. I had brought my sleeping bag and planned to stay over finding a bit of floor somewhere in the room. And I did! But before that, around midnight, I had a chance conversation with Andrea Weir, a developer who hadn't started working on a hack day project yet. She asked me what would make my life as a GP easier now. So I told her about how since the publication of the new NICE guidance on hypertension in 2012 we were increasingly using home BP monitoring to diagnose high blood pressure. I showed her the great web app that Ed Wallitt  had started a few months ago so that patients could share their BP readings online with their doctor. We talked about  how the patient is expected to take two sets of  reading a day during their normal waking hours. And in each set there should be two readings taken at least one minute apart. That's quite a lot to remember, isn't it! So we thought we would try and make an app which would work offline and simply give the patient some information about how to record their BP, what it meant, and reminders if they didn't record two sets of reading each day. It would be specifically to help patients follow the diagnosis protocol and wouldn't depend on internet access. They would be able to see their own reading on whichever device they decided to use, and would then be able to take their phone with the average result to their doctor at the practice. Simple!

Andrea thought this was something she would like to give a go and when I woke up just after 7 she was still working away on it. Alok Matta also got involved and gave us some tips (and in between times we were seeing what we might be able to do with the content on the NHS Choices conditions site so a busy day!)We didn't get as far as we wanted but when it came to presentations we had enough to explain to people what we were trying to do. There were a lot of questions and some discussion about the use of SMS- could patients be sent SMS reminders instead if they didn't have a smartphone. This was a great idea. Smartphones and broadband are not ubiquitous where I work but there are few people that don't have a phone that can handle SMS. There were questions about doing research to see the impact of using the app- great questions.

The really, really massive shock was that we won. I think people liked it because it was working to try and improve the experience of patients today. Yes, we didn't get as far as we wanted with the development but there is lots of time to work on this. I'm looking forward to getting Ed involved again too and maybe we can work on it further at an NHS hack day. It's very exciting. But now I need a good night's sleep:)


  1. Has this gone any further since?

  2. Haven't heard anything recently but I think Alok and Andrea might have been doing something- meeting with someone interested in something similar. Might be worth emailing them. Am still recommending BP at Home:)


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