The race to 40,000 downloads. Just don’t forget your toothbrush.

The race to 40,000 downloads. Just don’t forget your toothbrush.

Fraser Ferguson


The NHS 24 MSK Help App was launched in September 12  aimed at helping people with  muscle, back or joint problems to help themselves……where and when they want.

It has nationally developed and endorsed self management tools, exercises videos, a reminder function and lots of important information for managers and people of a working age.

It has been built but will they come and download it?

There is a lot we know about MSK problems

  • There are about 400,000 MSK AHP referrals per annum
  • The cost to the Scottish economy for MSK problems is £10 billion per annum
  • 12 million days lost per annum in sickness absence
  • AHP MSK waiting times of up to 25 weeks
  • Many people with an MSK problem do not require to see a healthcare professional
  • Quick access to good self management information for MSK problems means getting back to normal quicker, staying at or returning to work sooner

So, there are lots of people with MSK problems, which include significant personal and financial costs. There are long waits to see what might be the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

App phone 2 

There is also a lot we know about Smartphones and Apps too

  • 20% of people search for health related content on a mobile device
  • 27% of adults use a Smartphone [47% in 12-15 years olds]
  • 91% of adults use a mobile phone today but by 2014, 90% of mobile users will have no option but use a Smartphone
  • There are over 1 million apps in App Stores
  • 350 Apps are downloaded worldwide every second
  • The average Smartphone has had 70 apps on it
  • 4.8 billion people worldwide have a mobile phone but only 4.2 billion have a toothbrush

Smartphone and App technology is not going to go away, they are becoming part of normal healthcare as hand washing or patient safety programmes already have become. Toothbrushes though may be on their way out.

NHS 24 MSK Help App and MSK problems

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Apps and MSK problems seem to be a match made in technological heaven. Muscle, back or joint problems generally come on suddenly, often with no apparent cause. So equally speedy and immediate access to easily accessible advice on the safest self management information and do no harm exercise advice seems logical.

Our NDP mentions ‘technology’ ten times…or once every nine or so pages and positively encourages all AHPs in the importance of ‘developing innovative new models of care and fully utilising innovation in health technology’

Why should you have to wait weeks to be told that some simple exercises would have helped you get back to work sooner or be less miserable due to back pain?

If there are 400,000 MSK referrals to AHP services every year, so basing this on the fact that and over a quarter of the adult population have a Smartphone then for talking’s sake this could mean over 100,000 NHS 24 MSK Help App downloads are possible.

If we also include the people with an MSK problem and a Smartphone who never even contact healthcare professionals,  then even more downloads are possible.  We have to start somewhere and with these figures above in mind a target of 10% of these people to download the NHS 24 MSK Help App  seems an achievable target. There are many people with MSK problems who don’t need to see a healthcare professional anyway and providing them with as many options to self manage is essential.

Lots of ‘ifs’ ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’. So far the average monthly downloads are about 743 or 2.2% of a normal monthly total of expected AHP MSK referrals. So plenty of room for  improvement.

The call to action is to make the MSK App one of the first things that anybody with a new MSK problem downloads. Tell every AHP MSK patient, every GP, every A&E Consultant…. in fact every healthcare profession you come in contact with.

It is a NHS Scotland unique resource available for anybody to, providing the right information to use in what they feel is the right place and at the right time for them.

By end of September 2013 the 40,000 target will have been met and 40,000 MSK sufferers will have been helped……….as for dental hygiene who knows.

Let’s make it App’en!


Fraser Ferguson @FraserAHP

Download The NHS 24 MSK Help app free today from:

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  1. This is really good news for people who like to help themselves as much as possible and who understand that the ‘fix’ is often within ourselves. It is also good news for anyone who has put their back out brushing their teeth – I jest not! Lovely marriage of context and possibility!

  2. Fraser,

    I like the idea of the “NHS 24 MSK help” app and I have the current version (1.0) on my iphone. It is a good idea and I appreciate the work that has gone it to developing this, but I was disappointed at the lack of suggestions to see AHPs within the app.

    As an example: If you open the app and click on “MSK help” –> “Lower limb” –> “foot”…. you are guided to a page where one of the options is “should I see my doctor”. There then follows helpful advice on when to see a GP but at no point does it suggest considering seeing a podiatrist.

    I find it similarly lacking when following through other sections (hip, knee etc) where one might presume a suggestion to see a physio would be reasonable.

    Perhaps something to consider for version 2.0


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