More and more Americans – including Veterans – have turned to their mobile devices to assist with their health care. Apps that help track fitness and provide tools for disease management are coming to the market in droves. Using technology to enhance health and quality of life is something both patients and providers can support. In fact, in the past year, more than a third of U.S. physicians recommended that patients use health apps.
Enter Annie, a mobile messaging system that VA is developing in partnership with the National Health Service (NHS) England. With this technology, VA patients can choose to receive personalized and targeted text messages from VA, including general health tips, appointment reminders and prompts to help them track their own health data or care plan
Annie, named after Lt. Annie G. Fox, the first woman to receive the Purple Heart for combat, was inspired by the award-winning technology developed by NHS –Florence (Flo), named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. In England, mobile messaging through Florence has proven highly effective in helping patients who suffer from chronic diseases to self-manage their care, which increases patient engagement and motivation for change.
Beginning this fall, testing of VA’s Annie will begin. The Annie system can be customized to help patients with any health condition. But, initially, pilot testing will focus on text messaging interchanges designed to help Veterans who are dealing with congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and weight loss concerns. Appointment reminders will also be part of the initial deployment of Annie. Following the pilot evaluations, use of the system will be expanded to address other areas of care.
It’s been an exciting partnership to work alongside our colleagues from NHS England to develop this system. We will soon have Annie and they will have a better Florence. Our health care systems have much in common. Furthermore, we both see the value in using eHealth technologies to transform care delivery and to engage our respective patients. As such, VA and NHS England are in the midst of a three-year exchange program and collaboration focused on eHealth, launched in early 2013. It’s been fruitful! I hope you get to meet Annie -or Florence – soon.
Dr. Neil C. Evans is co-director, Connected Health, Office of Information and Analytics (OIA), Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Associate Chief of Staff for Informatics, Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center