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New Ulster University app to aid management of chronic diseases

Health U: Fitness Tracker The new Ulster University 'Health U' app uses smartphone sensors and an innovative prediction model to provide an overall assessment of the general health of chronic disease sufferers.

Ulster University is encouraging the public to have their say in the development of a revolutionary smartphone app that will transform how patients and healthcare professionals manage and treat chronic diseases.

As the leading cause of death across the globe, chronic diseases are long term conditions including respiratory disease, diabetes and heart disease. While these conditions cannot be cured, they can be managed in order to maximise a patient's quality of life. 

Computer science experts at Ulster University are developing new technology that aims to provide a baseline and post-treatment assessment of general health, allowing doctors to identify the effectiveness of chronic disease interventions.  

The new Ulster University app will use smartphone sensors and an innovative prediction model to provide an overall assessment of the general health of chronic disease sufferers. General health is a measure of how much a person's daily life is affected by their health, for example how they are affected by fatigue, physical ailments, pain or by their emotions. 

Lead researcher Dr Daniel Kelly from Ulster University said: "When treating patients with chronic conditions, doctors need to know if the treatment resulted in improved general health for a patient. To really understand if a patient's health has improved, the doctor needs to know if the patient's quality of life has enhanced, for example do they have more energy? Can they do more activities? Doctors currently measure this using a health status questionnaire.  

"Research shows that these questionnaires do not work on an individual basis, as they can be open to human error or patients providing an inaccurate account of how they really feel. This means the clinician receives a measurement of general health that doesn't truly reflect the patient.

"The new Ulster University app aims to remove the risk of inaccuracies by providing objective and individualised feedback to clinicians and patients. Doctors can use the information from the app to see changes in a person's daily life and evaluate benefit of any treatment the patient may have been prescribed.

"We are currently developing the app and are calling on the general public to get involved. Anyone with an android phone can help with this research by downloading the app – you just need to take a short questionnaire and keep the app installed and running on your phone in the background for at least four days.

"All data uploaded by users will be completely anonymous and nothing will be shared from the app. The data will help us build a more accurate understanding of how behaviour and general health are linked. This will contribute to the development of the predictive model and ultimately help us develop a user-friendly app for chronic disease sufferers.  

"Smartphones are non-invasive, have multiple sensors, powerful processors and are low cost, making them idea for a health measurement device. The impact Ulster University's app could be huge for patients suffering from chronic diseases helping Doctors to identify quickly and accurately what treatment is having the most positive effects."

The App is called "Health U: Fitness Tracker" and can be downloaded for free on Google Play by searching for Health U.