8. Don’t Worry be Appy!! by Professor Alka Ahuja

Introduction by Marcus Longley, Director of WIHSC and Professor of Applied Health Policy

This week’s blog in our ’20 blogs for 20 years’ series is by Professor Alka Ahuja, Visiting Professor at WIHSC and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Aneurin Bevan Health Board. Alka’s work is at the forefront of the application of Prudent Healthcare principles to clinical practice. In this blog she describes a brilliant simple and effective App her team has developed, that provides the technical ‘glue’ by which children and young people with autism, their families, and all the services on whom they depend can work in partnership. It is developments like these which transform people’s lives.

Don’t Worry be Appy!! by Alka Ahuja, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor, WIHSC

Smartphone applications (or apps) are becoming increasingly popular. In 2011, 5820 health-care apps were available in the market and this number is increasing rapidly. A national survey (Patients.co.uk, 2012) showed that > 160 million apps are downloaded in a month and 70% of British people search for health info online. Yet there is a lack of regulation or guidance for these health-care apps and even lesser control over their content. Despite an increasing number of health related apps in the market there is low level of health care professionals’ involvement in their development and contents. There is growing evidence that mobile apps would benefit not only from health care input but also from having user involvement in their development (McCurdie et al 2012)
Keeping this in mind “ABOUT ME” the autism mobile app was co-produced by the CARIAD team (Centre for Autism Research Intervention and Diagnostic team), Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB). The app was developed along with children and young people with autism and their carers in collaboration with colleagues in education, social services, voluntary sector and technology providers. Young people were key in the development of the layout of the app, content, colours, and text.
The app enables parents and children to access, “hold” and share information with services especially at times of emergency eg visit to A&E. It provides a low cost solution to well-known information sharing issue. Having accurate information will mean that more suitable provision could be more easily identified and provided, which in turn will reduce anxiety and stress for the child and family and the number of high cost crisis situations experienced.

This professional and partnership initiative will hopefully prove to be a catalyst for further development as this framework could be used to work with children and adults with other lifelong conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, or physical conditions such as diabetes and at times of transitions or crisis.