The pharmacy team at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust has developed an innovative app that is available free to help with the safe prescribing, administering and monitoring of lithium.
In the UK, lithium carbonate (often referred to as lithium) is the medicine most commonly used 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 three months, their kidney and thyroid function checked every six months and attend an 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.
Traditionally, recording these physical health checks was done in a paper booklet. Research by our pharmacy services team showed that use of this booklet was sporadic, with some patients reporting having never had one, or having lost it. Increasingly patients are using smart technology to manage day-to-day aspects of their lives and this led to the development of the app. The team enlisted the services of the mobile technology developer Incentivated, which had valuable previous experience and knowledge of the health sector.
It is hoped that use of the app will empower patients to take control of their physical health checks and their ongoing treatment. Currently, the app is focused on lithium medicine management. Future development of the framework will facilitate the monitoring of a broad range of mental health medicines. There is a big health gap between those with severe mental illness and the general population. Those with severe mental illness are more likely to die younger from treatable causes, have more physical health problems and not receive the health interventions they need when they ask for them. The app should go some way to address these issues for those taking lithium and we hope that, when extended to all mental health medicines, it will benefit more people.
The app is free to download from Apple and Android app stores. More information is available from www.physicalhealthmonitoring.com
Advanced specialist governance and compliance pharmacist
South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust