A new app which aims to improve the quality of care for adults with learning disabilities has recently been launched by Barts Health NHS Trust and UCLPartners.

Hear Me Now was designed in partnership with software developers Maldaba and enables people with learning disabilities to easily store important information on their phone, which can then be shared with healthcare staff and carers.

The app can be used by the person individually or with support from family/carers and enables healthcare workers to quickly understand an individual's needs, saving time in appointments, particularly when family members cannot be present. 

It also aims to empower patients, improve communication, and create more joined-up care across clinical services as well as better management of transition between services i.e. from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to adult services.

The information can be recorded in word, photo, audio, or video format which is then stored in easy-to-organise 'boxes'.

The majority of participants agreed the app helped improve communication at healthcare appointments

To test the efficacy of the app, a pilot of Hear Me Now was conducted at the Royal London Hospital which invited people with learning disabilities to test out the app for themselves.

Nearly 40 patients were supported with the app at the Royal London Hospital between May 2019 and January 2021. 

People with learning disabilities, their family and carers and staff were all trained on the app, and after 12 months, participants were asked to provide feedback. 

Out of the 30 participants that responded, the majority (26) found the app helpful and easy to use and nearly two thirds agreed it helped communication at healthcare appointments.

The primary use for the app was to record healthcare information; other uses included: collection of important information for emergencies, informing carers when no family were present at healthcare appointments, and keeping up-to-date on status of current health.

Family members reported a feeling of reassurance that all medical information was in one place 

Dr Richard Fitzgerald, Academic Clinical Fellow in Special Care Dentistry at Barts Health, said: “It was quite clear through the interviews with participants and their families that the Hear Me Now app was well-liked and effective.

"One of the most interesting findings for me were that family members reported a feeling of reassurance that all medical information was in one place if it was needed for emergencies. Alongside this it was interesting to see that the self-reported use of the app was high, suggesting that worries about digital literacy in this population may be unfounded.” 

Maldaba now plans to conduct other evaluative projects of Hear Me Now to see how it can enable and improve the take up and quality of the annual health checks for people with learning disabilities. This project will be taking place in North East London NHS Foundation Trust supported and NHS trusts in the South West.