The power of health information

I went to a fascinating meeting of the BCSHealth Informatics (Interactive Care) Specialist Group where tracking and tagging devices for elderly people, especially those with dementia was discussed in terms of the the New Technology in Elderly Care project (NTEC) by Frank Miskelly. Indeed the huge rise in dementia was featured on BBC news today, though of course it will hit developing countries particularly hard.

The flip side of the tagging discussion was a really good presentation by Dr Paul Johnson from the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust in using mobile recording devices to monitor people with chronic illness over a long period. The excellent point made was that the cross-European study nicely highlighted the importance of good diet in tackling obesity, rather than any sexy wonder drug for example. And the presenter also stressed the fact there are millions of people who are in need of help with chronic diseases oftern caused by diet but who never present to a doctor. Social software applications to the rescue? Certainly the concept of informed patients fits with Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt ‘s speech on 13 December when she stated: “If we want to create a self-improving health service that designs its services around patients, rather than making patients fit in around the service, then we need more choice and a stronger voice for patients and users.” Over to Patient Opinion then as an example of empowering patient choice. But why not finance such social software to promote health education too?

On the flip/flip side of talk of tracking technology was a posting on a blog about the wave of kidnappings of Brazilian footballers’ mothers last year. The one comment was promoting a tracking device which no doubt would be very useful if you were ever kidnapped. In fact I was warned myself about this feature of Brazilian life when I went there last January only for a friend of Juniors to be kidnapped along with the car – luckily she was released, it was only the car the criminals were after.