Inflammatory bowel disease experts in Southampton have become the first in the country to experience a day in the life of their patients through a new mobile phone app.
Doctors, nurses, dietitians and pharmacists at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) are using the In My Shoes app to understand how Crohn’s disease and colitis impact patients’ lives.
The chronic conditions, which affect more than 300,000 people across the UK, are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease and can cause fatigue, significant abdominal pain, malnutrition and frequent and severe diarrhoea.
The app, launched across the UK on Tuesday, has been developed by national charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK and Takeda UK to deliver notifications to users which include a three-minute warning to find a toilet and if a type of food may trigger symptoms.
A UHS spokesman said: “It aims to break down stigma, reduce isolation and encourage people to think of ways they can support friends, family and colleagues living with IBD, as well as prompting conversations between patients and their healthcare teams.”
Consultant gastroenterologist Dr Fraser Cummings said: “This app is thought-provoking and will be useful for improving understanding among family and friends and may help assure patients that the teams looking after them have increased insight into the impact these conditions have on every aspect of their lives.”
Anna Wills, senior gastroenterology dietitian, said: “I like to think I have a lot of empathy with patients but the app certainly made me more aware of what patients face day-to-day – we only had a taster for 24 hours, they live with this every day.”
Patient Michelle Ripley, 26, from Southampton, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 19 and has had three operations including a bowel reconstruction and has a restricted diet.
She said: “IBD has affected every aspect of my life and it can be difficult when people don’t always realise or understand what a struggle it can be and how serious it is.
“My boyfriend Alex and mum Pam, who has been through every step of the journey with me, have both used the app and agreed they had never truly realised the extent of the condition and the immense strain it causes.”
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: ”Understanding what people with Crohn’s and colitis go through is so important to improve the lives of everybody living with these debilitating conditions.
“The In My Shoes app sparks conversations that soon lead to practical things we can all do to help.”