Barts Health NHS Trust launches app for cognitively impaired

An app to support people with cognitive disabilities, developed with clinicians at Barts Health NHS Trust, has started to be made available more widely to patients.

The Hear Me Now app developed with UCLPartners and software company Maldaba is designed to improve quality of care for people with cognitive impairment, specifically adults with a learning disability.

The app allows information to be recorded in word, photo, audio, or video format – by either the patient or a carer – which is then stored in easy-to-organise ‘boxes’ and shared with healthcare staff either in person or via an online sharing platform.

It aims to allow healthcare professionals to better and more quickly understand an individual patient’s needs, saving time in appointments, and encourage better communication with clinical staff.

A key application is to help patients manage the transition between services, such as moving from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to adult services.

Nearly 40 outpatients living with learning disabilities used the Hear Me Know app in a pilot study at the Royal London Hospital between May 2019 and January 2021, with 30 providing feedback after using it for at least 12 months.

All told, 26 of the 30 reported that they found the app helpful and easy to use and nearly two thirds agreed it helped communication at healthcare appointments.

“It was quite clear through the interviews with participants and their families that the Hear Me Now app was well-liked and effective,” said Dr Richard Fitzgerald, academic clinical fellow in special care dentistry at Barts Health, who co-led the pilot.

“One of the most interesting findings for me were that family members reported a feeling of reassurance that all medical information was in one place if it was needed for emergencies,” he said, adding that self-reported use of the app was high, “suggesting that worries about digital literacy in this population may be unfounded.”

Software developer Maldaba said it now plans to evaluate the app in collaboration with North East London NHS Foundation Trust – as well as NHS trusts in the South West of the UK – to explore how it can improve the take up and quality of the annual health checks for people with learning disabilities.

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