A free app to help with the safe prescribing, administering and monitoring of lithium has been developed by Pharmacy Services at South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust (SWLSTG).
In the UK, lithium carbonate is the most commonly used medication to treat bipolar disorder. For lithium to be effective, the dosage must be strictly administered, and patients need to have their lithium blood level checked every 3 months, their kidney and thyroid function checked every 6 months and attend a full annual health check with their healthcare provider.
Patients can only receive a supply of lithium from a hospital or community pharmacy if they can show evidence of an up-to-date blood level result.
Research by the pharmacy team showed that patients wanted the option of recording this information in an electronic format, rather than just in a traditional paper booklet. This led the team to develop an app with mobile technology developer Incentivated, which had previous experience and knowledge of the health sector.
Although the app is focused on lithium medicine management, the wider aim is to develop a framework that can be adapted for a range of medicines. Pharmacy Services hope this will aid patients and health teams administer and monitor additional medicines and be a useful tool for other healthcare trusts with similar needs or for further development and enhancement.
Dee Evans, pharmacist at SWLSTG, said: “I hope that all those who download the app will find it a really useful addition to their mental health wellbeing by allowing easy recording of vital test results, setting reminders for forthcoming test dates and recording quality of their sleep and moods, which can be used it to guide discussions with their healthcare team. Of course, it can also be used as a handy source of information about their medicine available at their fingertips.
“We also want to hear from other organisations in the NHS, charities or the private sector who would like to work collaboratively with us on this app. We have developed a framework that can be easily expanded, and which we hope will be of use to organisations out there wanting to develop something similar or for other medicine groups.”
Jonathan Bass, Incentivated’s CEO, added: "Smartphone take-up has reached the stage where it is now normal to use the power of these devices to help manage your day-to-day life.
“From physical activity, diet and sleep to prescription monitoring, the convenience of the mobile phone does away with the need to carry a diary and until the stigma of mental health has vanished entirely this app is discrete and secure.
“We look forward to adding medicines and non-prescription conditions to the app, the next of which is in development now."
The app was developed with the support of Bipolar UK members, and users can:
• Record lithium treatment and levels
• Set health check reminders using the calendar function
• Record health check results at recommended intervals
• Record mood and sleep using the diary function
• Email GP or specialist prescriber test results
• Store emergency information and contacts
• Have a learning section with frequently asked questions, dos and don’ts and side effects.
The app is also password protected, has no in-app purchases and is available for Apple and Android devices for use in the UK.
Funding for the development of the app was provided by South West London Academic, Health and Social Care system.
You can download the Apple IPhone version of the Lithium App here
The Android version of the Lithium App can be downloaded here