PIONEERING work at a Scottish university could lead to people being able to diagnose and treat their conditions using digital technology.

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are leading the way globally in sexual health but the breakthroughs have the potential to have much wider use within the NHS, benefitting millions of patents and helping to reduce costs and the use of antibiotics.

The award-winning eHealth research is led by GCU’s expert Professor of Sexual Health and HIV, Claudia Estcourt (right), and has just been showcased at a prestigious event in London as part of a report into how the NHS workforce will need to change to accommodate innovative technologies. “Our research is groundbreaking,” Estcourt said. We are delighted it has been recognised as a game-changer for the NHS and been included in a wide-ranging review of how training the NHS workforce will need to adapt.”

The research has developed from work in treating people with chlamydia, the UK’s most common STI, and is being applied to prevention of HIV, where Scotland is leading the way in the UK.

Scotland is the first of the UK nations to make the HIV Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug routinely available on the NHS for those at the very highest risk of acquiring HIV. It is hoped its use will lead to HIV infection being eliminated from the Scottish population.

Those who use PrEP need three-monthly check-ups and the GCU team is looking at whether some of these can be carried out online – something that could eventually be used more widely within the NHS.

Estcourt said: “The Scottish Government has been visionary in making PrEP available as part of a routine service and for us the helpful side effect of this it that it has a massive potential for research.

“Our aim is to develop an app containing a full range of services that people could use on their phones. For example, two or three check-ups a year could be done online through an automated consultation and self-testing at home.

“We consider our work to be pioneering not just for people with HIV but as a prototype that could be used in other branches of medicine. You could diagnose an infection at home with a self-test kit, find out the results, go online for an immediate automated consultation and then pick up a treatment from a pharmacy minutes later.

“For example, a sore throat can be a difficult one but if someone took a test at home they could see immediately if it was viral or bacterial and needed antibiotics.”

Estcourt added: “The technology is there but it is about how the health system can embrace it. Some of issues are the regulatory frameworks that prevent advancement as they were designed for the days of pen and paper. They need to be looked at afresh to see if they are fit for purpose as they are one of biggest barriers to deployment.”