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Like an APP on your smartphone for “best practice” medical treatment and care?

July 23, 2012

I would LOVE an APP on my iPhone for ‘best practice” medical treatment and care!

It would give me access to a WIKI (like Wikipedia) which would  provide me with a summary of evidence based treatment and care:  and constantly be kept up to date! What an idea! In Australia over 50% of the population owns a smartphone so that is a huge user potential ….and growing.

A real conversation about delivering best treatment

A new Australian study has made such a recommendation. With this APP patients and users would be empowered to have a real conversation with medical and associated professionals (like physios) across all health fields. What are the indicators? What is the best treatment for my condition? How can we (together) get “best practice” delivered?  And if there is a need to deviate, what are the reasons? These would be clearly explained and documented. As a patient you would become really knowledgeable ….

The Australian Study: only 57% received best treatment

One of the major goals of the study was to identify areas where funds could be most effectively used. We are currently spending about $120 billion on Health Care in Australia.

The researchers screened 35,000 people, identified twenty-two medical and surgical conditions and found that (on average) only 57% of the patients received “best practice” treatment and care (i.e. according to criteria for evidence-based care). A similar U.S.A. study done 10 years ago found only 55% of patients received appropriate treatment and care and their health costs are more than double those in Australia.

The researchers then interviewed  and examined the medical records of 1000 patients with one or more of these 22 conditions. They found that some treatment was a bit out of date, version 2 of a drug was prescribed rather than version 3; in general there were pockets of excellence and other pockets who need to do better.

The best treatments were provided in instances of

  • Heart Disease…….90% appropriate treatment
  • Heart Failure……..76% appropriate treatment
  • High Blood Pressure…72% appropriate treatment
  • Low back pain …………72% appropriate treatment


  •  Asthma…………..only 38% appropriate treatment
  • Antibiotics ………only 19% appropriate. (Patients are seen to expect antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infection , costing billions.)

A lot of patients are clearly suffering symptoms unnecessarily. The Australian Arthritis Foundation in a separate study found that only 40% of patients received appropriate treatment and care from their G.P.s.

Electronic records

So if we had a APP on our mobile phone as proposed by the researchers, every patient could know what the best up-to-date practice is for his or her condition. To achieve this the development of electronic medical records is essential, with electronic auditing. Currently medical records are unstructured, however with an agreed record system these records could follow a patient into hospital or anywhere around Australia.

The researchers can see they have a long way to go to implement “best practice” treatment and care. They have already fronted up to 220 committees! The need for agreement at a national level as to what comprises “best practice” will be no mean feat. But it puts responsibility on each one of us once we have access to this knowledge and we can, in collaboration with health professionals, take more responsibility for our own health.

REF: CareTrack: assessing the appropriateness of health care delivery in Australia.  MJA 197 (2) 16 July 2012

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