UK doctors to 'prescribe' health apps

British patients may soon be "prescribed" a smartphone application instead of a medical prescription when visiting their local doctor.

The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) hopes to improve its digital footprint by a new "kitemarking of apps" scheme, which will accredit (kitemark) apps with the recognized NHS logo. After the proposals are published next summer, the app store should be in development by the end of 2015.

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The app scheme, proposed by the National Information Board, a national body that brings government and health care organizations together, will help patients access particular services, and hopefully make them more conscious about looking after their health and wellbeing in the future.

Whilst specific apps themselves have yet to be announced, patients could be using apps in the future to track their health. Potential app ideas - which are already available in general app markets - could include monitoring weight, sleep and blood pressure levels.

These "kitemarked" apps however, will have the NHS logo, which should "ensure that intuitive and compelling applications emerge and flourish, so as to engage and secure commitment" from patients, according to the Personalised Health and Care 2020 report.

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The scheme will enable people to take greater control of their wellbeing. Apps that tackle weight loss could address the U.K.'s current obesity problem, which is costing the NHS more than £5 billion ($7.88 billion) each year, according to Gov.uk, a U.K. public sector information website.

The apps could help the NHS achieve its efficiency savings target of at least £20 billion by 2015 and save more of taxpayers' money.

The NHS England's national director of patients and information, Tim Kelsey, said in a statement that utilizing technology and data efficiently could also aid the development of new medicines and treatments.

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This scheme is part of an overall examination into how the U.K's health care services will work alongside new innovations in technology and how to provide up-to-date information to patients over the next few years.

The NHS already has a "Health Apps Library" online, which reviews apps put forward and then lists them online if they are deemed safe and relevant for the public. Under the new scheme doctors would actively prescribe the use of these apps.

The U.S. however may not be inclined to follow suit. In February 2014, a survey asked 250 physicians in the U.S. about their opinion on prescribing smartphone apps to patients. Forty two percent said they wouldn't prescribe apps to their patients, as there was "no regulatory oversight", according to Quantia Inc's website.

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