Cybercom has developed an app that can help motivate patients who have received a prescription to engage in more physical activity.
Most people are aware that exercising is important. It makes us healthier, more alert and we live longer. Yet not everyone is aware that avoiding exercise is comparable to smoking in terms of health effects. There is substantial scientific support to suggest that prescription of physical activity has positive effects on a number of medical conditions, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and breast cancer. The field of psychiatry has also established that exercise helps combat mental illness. At the same time, the estimated cost to society of inadequate physical activity is six billion kronor per year.
The concept of physical activity on prescription (PAP) has been around for 15 years, yet is nonetheless deployed rather sparingly in the care sector. Of all the patients prescribed physical activity, only about half adhere to their prescription.
Commissioned by Blekinge County Council, Cybercom developed a motivational service called Moverex. Patients are equipped with an activity bracelet that measures their pulse and thus level of activity, and this information is transmitted to a smartphone app containing the physical activity prescription.
The app ensures that the patient maintains a sufficiently high pulse while exercising (at least 60 percent of their maximum), provides reminders, and displays their progress toward their weekly goal. In addition to the patients personally being able to monitor their progress, their care providers can also see the results and so provide coaching and motivation to help them achieve the prescribed level of exercise. Cybercom’s Johan Persbeck is among those who have worked on the development of this solution.
“We have drawn inspiration from sources such as the world of gaming, which is adept at triggering the reward system. Patients are motivated and prompted to get involved using elements of the pleasure derived from gaming. For instance, patients can compete with themselves, swap tips with others on social media, share success stories and encourage one another. One of the most powerful motivators is feeling acknowledged and knowing that someone cares about what you are doing. For this reason, the person who issued the prescription can also send messages and coach the patient.”
The National Board of Health and Welfare requires PAP prescriptions to be monitored, which in the past has meant that the patient must be called in for additional meetings. Moverex eliminates the need for this since patients can be monitored using the app. There are numerous advantages for the county council: healthier patients and cost savings thanks to fewer meetings.
“The project is based on a key element of Cybercom’s core values, and we believe that using digital resources is the right approach in solving many of the problems facing the world today. By making it easier and more fun for patients to monitor their prescribed physical activity, we hope to improve patient health, which can reduce costs for society and the healthcare sector,” says Johan Persbeck.
An initial pilot project was conducted in 2016 and the results surpassed our expectations. Motivation increased substantially among the pilot subjects, which resulted in a reduction in both medication levels and waistlines. Two pilot projects are currently in progress under Blekinge County Council, and more county councils are lined up to run trials of the app.”
Physical activity on prescription (PAP)
- PAP allows patients to be prescribed some form of physical activity in addition to, or in certain cases as a replacement for, pharmaceuticals.
- This activity then becomes part of their treatment and is adapted to each individual’s circumstances and preferences.
- A prescription for physical activity can be issued by all licensed healthcare professionals.
- All county councils have offered PAP since 2008, although only a tiny fraction of doctor visits result in a PAP.
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