The rheumatology department at King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has adopted a smartphone app to support outpatients living with chronic arthritis.

The development of the app was initiated by Dr James Galloway, an honorary consultant in rheumatology at King's, who worked with tech company Ampersand Mobile on the software.

Key features of the app, available on both Apple and Android, include the ability to track hospital appointments and to allow patients to access information such blood test results.

It also acts as a knowledge hub for patients, featuring information about the trust itself – such as relevant departments – and educational resources, including those of the charity Arthritis Research UK. Patients can also use the app to complete and submit questionnaires.

The app’s aim is to reduce the amount of time a patient needs to spend at hospital, while also improving their experience.

Dr Galloway told EHI News the idea for the app came from a research project at King’s involving patient information collected on iPads ahead of a clinical consultation.

He thought the technology could be adapted to support people with arthritis, considering the difficulties patients have writing by hand.

Joo Teoh, managing director of Ampersand, supported Dr Galloway and said the development of the app was guided by its intended users.

“The resulting solution is not a whiz-bang stack of new technology – simplicity and ease of use were the key goals and that is what we have achieved,” Teoh said.

Dr Galloway said his experience with older patients has eased concerns that those with arthritis would struggle to adapt to a new technology.

“Contrary to our expectations, even senior patients produced their iPhones and said they would be keen to see our department moving into the 21st century with regards to technology,” he said.

King’s, which also considered an HTML5 version of the software, is now tracking the app’s adoption and feedback from patients with the possibility of optimising the app further, including its expansion beyond arthritis.

Dr Galloway said the next few months will be an “acid test” for the system regarding uptake.

“If nobody does use the app, we will have a rethink.”

NHS leadership is keen to support the more widespread use of apps for healthcare, especially in the management of long-term conditions.

NHS England has launched a library of recommended apps on NHS Choices, while plans to ‘kitemark’ apps endorsed by the NHS are part of the Personalised Health and Care 2020 framework led by the National Information Board.

The British Standards Institution is also due to publish guidelines for developers next month on how to create a healthcare app that is suitable for NHS use.