Keeping recoveries 'on track'

Abbie Collard
Image caption Abbie - and her doctors - use the programme to monitor her progress

A fall from a horse two years ago left Abbie Collard with lasting back and hip pain.

Abbie, now 13, has good days and bad.

But she is able to track her progress using a specially-designed computer programme on her iPad.

The HealthUnlocked Tracker is being piloted by medics at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore.

It is the first online patient-reported outcome measures system (PROMs) in the UK.

It works on any computer, or even on a patient's TV at home.

It involves a detailed questionnaire which patients complete at regular intervals. The results are then plotted on a graph, so both doctor and patient can track progress and monitor the effectiveness of treatment.

Abbie said: "After I fell off the horse, I had really bad back pain and in my hips.

"It's a really on and off pain. When it's up it's really bad and it's difficult to even walk down stairs.

After seeing a local osteopath and being treated at her local hospital Abbie, from Flitwick in Bedfordshire, began treatment at the RNOH.

The teenager is now having more osteopathic treatment, and regular scans and blood tests to check her progress, and she is now using the tracker on her iPad to monitor how things are going.

"It's really good because at the end there is a graph and it shows the results there. It's really clear and it's so much better than filling out paper forms."


Mr Matthew Shaw, a consultant spinal surgeon at the RNOH, who is leading the trial, said using the programme helped him quickly assess a patient's situation in a consultation, saving time.

He added: "Back surgery is quite complex. It can be difficult for patients to articulate their symptoms and describe how their life is being affected.

Image caption Spinal surgeon Matthew Shaw says having an instant picture of a patient's progress speeds up consultations

"Our consultations are really short. Patients can wait a long time to see us, then we have 10 to 15 minutes to try and tease out the information we need to help them."

He added: "Some patients with very rapid recoveries require less intensive follow-up than those with slower or more problematic recoveries.

"This gives me more flexibility to assess this in advance, and better tailor my time to my patients' needs."

The trial is being backed by the Department of Health.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "This is a great example of how healthcare innovation can make a real difference to patients' lives."

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