Pictured in Barcelona, the group of 11 physical therapists who participated in a workshop on developing a mobile app on the ICF.

Physical therapists help develop device to ensure health professionals speak same language

A group of health professionals from around the world is developing a mobile phone application (app) that will ensure a common understanding of care decisions and goals between different health professionals. 

The app will be based around the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) – a comprehensive coding system for functioning and disability which provides a common language between all professions.

The project involves 213 collaborators from 36 countries. Physical therapists are prominent among those developing the app, which will help providers and users of health services in the front line record a person's functional status in terms of the ICF. At a workshop meeting of the partnership guiding the app development in October last year, 11 of the 33 participants were physical therapists, from as far afield as Chile, Finland, Korea and Portugal. 

Heidi Anttila, a physiotherapist from the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland is one of those involved. “A mobile ICF app would be useful in several ways,” she said. “Clients themselves could tell about their functioning and environments at home by using the app, and, if they wish, send this information directly to a physical therapist or any other health worker.”

“As it is developed, the app will be tested for various client groups.”

Also at the project meeting was Catherine Sykes, WCPT’s Professional Policy Consultant. “The final product should be able to capture data at the point of care and communicate it to a more centralised service, thus facilitating inter-professional practice,” she said. The product is expected to be launched in 2016-2017.

The app development meeting took place alongside the World Health Organization’s Family of International Classifications network (FIC) meeting, held in Barcelona in October.  The theme for the meeting was “Driving improvement in healthcare: from data to eHealth tools”.

“One of the key points of discussion at the meeting was the need to develop new materials to help health professionals, policy makers and decision makers better understand the ICF and its application in health information systems,” said Catherine Sykes, who is co-Chair of the FIC’s Functioning and Disability Reference Group.