Tuesday 19 August 2014, 12:21 | By

In the News August 2014 – Palliative Care makes national headlines

CSL In The News

Whilst monitoring the web and news wires for new developments that could eventually prove beneficial for people living with chronic conditions, we often come across interesting blogs and online articles that may not have caught the eye of Fleet Street editors, but do connect with CSL’s goals. This month we have selected a few you may have missed; we hope you find them of value.

Thomas Read  Marie Curie post pic

PALLIATIVE CARE MAKES HEADLINES AS ASSISTED DYING BILL GOES TO LORDS
As Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords, palliative care received extensive coverage in the national newspapers. Notably, the Guardian reported that doctors claimed most dying people want palliative care, friendship and dignity. The report touches on the issues surrounding the effectiveness of pain relief for the dying, as well as the fact that few people without a cancer diagnosis are offered palliative care.

If passed, the Bill would permit doctors to dispense lethal drugs to mentally competent adults who have six months or fewer to live. The debate at the House of Lords involved over 120 speakers, with equal numbers of those who oppose and support the Bill speaking. The debate lasted over ten hours, which is indicative of the strength of belief in this highly emotive issue. The Bill is due to go to committee in the autumn and we will continue to report on it.

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CREATIVE THERAPIES TRANSFORMING LIVES
Palliative care takes on many different shapes and forms. At CSL we are particularly interested in creative therapies, and were delighted to hear about a partnership involving Marie Curie Hospices and the Royal Academy of Arts, resulting in an exhibition staged at the Royal Academy in London, as reported by Bradford Telegraph and Argus.

The exhibition called Life Embraced showcased paintings produced by patients. Talking of the experience, one of the artists Thomas Read, whose painting entitled ‘A Glimpse of Paradise’ is seen here above, said: “It [creating art] has become a means of communicating the vitality of my inner life, which I cannot do in any other way now. It is as if I have left the depths of despair and climbed to a brighter, sunnier plateau.” Another artist, Sarah Ezekiel, who has motor neurone disease also exhibited her work at Life Embraced and has kindly agreed to write a guest blog for us, so keep your eyes peeled for that one. 

We see many very different examples of creative/arts therapy in healthcare. But what exactly is it?   The Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (Anzata) describes arts therapy as “[using] creative processes, including art making, drama, and movement to improve and enhance physical, mental and emotional well-being”.

In New Zealand, a local paper reports on creative therapies being used to help women who have been sexually abused. In this instance the focus is on the creative process, rather than on the technical aspects of art, and the artwork is not for public consumption.

Creative therapy can also benefit carers. An extraordinary new book, The Iceberg, chronicles the life of the author Marion Coutts and her late husband the Independent’s art critic Tom Lubbock, from the moment they learned Tom had an aggressive form of brain tumour — at the age of 53 — until his death just over two years later. You can read more about the authors experience in London’s Evening Standard.

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PROPOSED GUIDELINES AND REGULATIONS FOR MHEALTH APPS
With the possibility of 3.5 billion people using healthcare apps by 2018, surely it won’t be too long before we start to see apps providing palliative care. In the interim the health apps market continues to expand, leading to more demand for clearer regulation and a call via Digital Health Space urging app developers to contact the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “regarding proposed regulations for mobile health applications”.

There’s clearly a need for more clarity. Writing on iMedicalApps, an emergency room doctor calls for an app to be removed from the iTunes store. “Instant Blood Pressure — Monitor Blood Pressure Using Only Your iPhone”, made it into the top 10 “Paid” and “Top Grossing” sections of Apple App Store’s Health and Fitness category. Produced by a biomedical engineer trained at Johns Hopkins University, the app promises to measure your blood pressure using just your iPhone. With a patent pending, you would envisage this app to be a serious medical device; in fact if you read the small print you’ll find a disclaimer: “Instant Blood Pressure is for entertainment purposes only. It is not an FDA cleared medical device. Consult your doctor if you have any health concern.”

This is ambiguous at best and demonstrative of the need to regulate apps that pose a medium or high risk to users. We can only hope the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), will follow suit so users and healthcare practitioners will be able to select from a rubber-stamped, fully tested range of apps. In the meantime, the NHS has a library of recommended health apps, deemed safe to use.

According to the Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine, industry research predicts approximately 500 million smartphone owners will be using a healthcare app by 2015 and 3.4 billion by 2018. Current mobile health (mHealth) research suggests that the use of smartphone apps can improve physicians’ ability to achieve an accurate diagnosis, improve patient safety, increase patient adherence, and increase system efficiency. Additionally, apps can be individualised for healthcare providers or designed for patients. The potential impact on healthcare delivery and economics has encouraged physician use and development of apps. Although physicians’ involvement with medical apps is increasing, there is an absence of literature describing the development process.

So, if you are a healthcare professional thinking of integrating mobile medical applications (“apps”) into patient care, the JMTM has created an easy ten-step guide based on current guidelines. Just follow the link above.

See you again next month. In the interim if you would like to keep up to date with CSL News, follow us on Twitter here.