Bringing exercise therapy to patient’s homes with new mobile app

An app that brings NHS exercise therapy to people’s homes is set to help more patients with vascular disease after being developed by a NNUH Consultant.

The Walk-A-Cise smartphone app is the brainchild of Philip Stather, Vascular Consultant and Clinical Associate Professor, to make it easier for patients with peripheral arterial disease to increase their activity levels and reduce the risks of serious complications.

The disease is a condition where a build-up of fatty deposits occurs in the arteries and restricts blood supply to leg muscles. The Walk-A-Cise app helps patients to improve blood supply to the legs and reduce cramping through exercise therapy. The app uses GPS to monitor patients walking distance which can be monitored over time to encourage them to walk further.

The mobile phone app is currently being used by NNUH, Cambridge University Hospitals and Colchester Hospital patients, but is set to be extended to more hospitals in the region following £14,000 of funding from UEA Health and Social Care Partners.

Prof Stather said that the virtual solution had been designed because not all patients have easy access to exercise therapy.

“Patients with peripheral arterial disease experience cramps when they walk and the first treatment for them is exercise therapy. However, nationally only 40% of hospitals have an exercise programme and only 25% of patients attend. Our vascular service covers West and East Norfolk and people do not always want to travel 50 miles for an exercise class and have the expense of travelling and parking.”

“Two-thirds of patients will improve with exercise and have improved blood flow around their legs. If patients do not do exercise therapy, the next step is angioplasty or surgery and there is a risk of losing the leg.”

Walk-A-Cise helps to make it easier to do exercise therapy, at a time that is convenient to patients.

The project has also received £50,000 from Innovate UK to do the next stage of development of the app, which will include the ability to do six minute walk tests, develop the app as a communication tool and enable patients to take part in exercise class videos.

“It is like a smart watch or activity tracker, but the difference is having the ability to link in with the clinician. At the moment the data and the app is very basic and over the next 12 months we will be increasing the number of hospitals using the app and doing the next stage of development and at that point we can start to make an income from it and do clinical trials to compare it with standard access to treatment,” said Prof Stather.

Funding from the UEA will help to roll out the application to partner organisations including James Paget University Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital, Peterborough Hospital and Basildon University Hospital.