It’s a truism that New Year’s resolutions are set up to fail, although intriguingly there is some research to suggest that they are still more likely to succeed than commitments made at other times of year (but perhaps that’s just the way Old Father Time, The Easter Bunny and other seasonal icons carved up the workload).
The annual YouGov poll shows that diet, exercise and money management are the perennial favourites, which is good from an NHS point of view since the first two have a direct impact on physical health and the third can definitely help with stress and emotional health. There is also a lot of evidence that a SMART approach works, particularly keeping your resolutions simple and few in number (in fact a single resolution that you achieve has a lot of merit over several that conspire to make you feel guilty when you fall behind on them).
In Surrey Heartlands we will be continuing to take forward our three existing resolutions of integrated local care, multi-professional leadership, and citizen engagement. But there is one area where we could all – professionals and local people alike – join together at a very fundamental level to make a shared resolution and that is the adoption of new technology.
Whatever the application, there is little doubt that we are on the cusp of an explosion in health related personal technology. Apple has a whole section of its website devoted to open source development of bespoke apps with healthcare professionals, and the new Apple Watch uses the strap-line “Part Guardian, Part Guru” to set out how its technology can help you improve your health proactively and be supported when you have concerns.
Industry insiders (by which I mean the IT industry not the health industry) have suggested that the use of health apps has tripled in the last four years. They seem to work best in areas where trust is high and risk is low – for instance where the symptoms are relatively minor, or part of an existing pattern, or known to a trusted physician.
Key factors are confidence and competence. Technophobia is a real barrier to the adoption of new healthcare technologies; it is common and affects all ages, sexes and sectors of the population. So here is a New Year’s Resolution for all of us: find a buddy to help you overcome your fear of the app and the hardware. A resolution shared is a resolution more likely to succeed, and most people love a good coaching relationship. My personal experience of adopting new technologies has been enlightening (and, I admit, at times hysterically funny such as the time when a colleague persuaded me to turn my iPad upside down as the software I was struggling with was “gravity sensitive”). But I have learnt and I have succeeded, which is just as well because the future is coming, ready or not.
I do have one suggestion at this time of year, whatever your objective, and that is to make your New Year’s resolutions a few days into the new calendar. Sixth of January to be precise, which this year falls on a Sunday. The Christian feast of epiphany has found its way into secular language for a reason, which is that it represents enlightenment and wisdom. Much better to think it through with a clear head and start after the partying is over; the gyms are packed the first week of January anyway …
Dr Claire Fuller
Senior Responsible Officer
Surrey Heartlands Health & Care Partnership