University researchers at Imperial College London have developed a mobile app to help patients prepare for surgery and reduce the risk of surgical complications.

The surgery app, which can be downloaded for free on Apple’s app store, has been released through Imperial College spin-out company DigitalStitch, and provides step by step advice on how to prepare for an operation.

The app’s creator, Stephanie Russ, told EHI the inspiration for the app came from her research on reducing complications from surgery, as well as a personal experience where a friend died during a routine operation.

“I thought about things that might be able to help and empower patients to play an active role in their own care and contribute towards reducing errors, and it was sort of an obvious thing to look at.”

Russ said the app, developed with input from clinicians, focuses on key risks related to surgery, such as deep vein thrombosis, hygiene and wound care, accompanied by animations and arranged according to the surgery process.

Patients are given information about what they can do to help with their care, what they can check, what information they should provide to clinicians and what questions they should ask.

Russ said the app is supported by “senior figures” within the NHS, and Imperial is currently working to have the app featured on the NHS Choices website.

Imperial has also made a presentation to senior NHS professionals at an Apple event to get it featured on its app store, and is building a website to showcase the app.

Russ said the functionality could also be expanded to allow patients to set up reminders for appointments and medications, provide a contact book for their healthcare providers, and become involved in patient networks.

“It’s version one at the moment, it’s a very simplistic version of what it could be.”

She said the app’s creators have applied for a study grant to assess its effectiveness, and could expand beyond surgery into other areas such as maternity if it is a success.

Professor Lord Ara Darzi, professor of surgery at Imperial College London and former health minister, said the app can help to reduce the stress on patients and their families by providing them with “salient advice” about the surgery process.