Recommend an app to a patient?  Three things you need to know

Recommend an app to a patient? Three things you need to know

Before I recommend an app to a patient I want to know three things:


  1. Is the app I recommend going to be suitable for them to use?
  2. Will it improve their health outcomes?
  3. Will it be safe?

On the surface these questions seem relatively straightforward in allowing me to recommend an app . However finding answers I can trust, in the short window of time I have to spend with my patient, is anything but straightforward.

For GPs like myself, who see inherent value in mobile applications, this problem is all too familiar. Clinicians don’t have the time to research health apps and therefore, don’t recommend them to patients.

This sets our practice out of touch with how most patients choose to live their lives.

My patients use mobile devices to keep abreast of current affairs, to check the latest weather updates, to stay connected with friends and families. Some of them are also using health apps and fit bits to track and monitor their health.

Equally, there are pockets of our health system where we can find really innovative practice. Some UK hospitals are developing mobile apps to help patients manage serious medical conditions and feed information back to their doctors between visits, often in real time. Health and care related apps are being used to help with everything from recovering from surgery and managing pain, right through to reminding people to take their meds.

Unfortunately though, the GP practice is taking last place in the digital revolution race.

It doesn’t need to be that way.

There is now a way for busy GPs likes myself to take a look at the 165,000 health and care apps on the market and quickly distinguish between the good, the bad and the useless.

ORCHA, the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications has developed a safe, simple and highly effective way to validate health apps and provide a convenient rating scale to guide clinicians and the general public.

ORCHA also empowers health and care professionals to identify, engage with and actively promote apps that will have a positive impact on their patients and service users health and wellbeing outcomes.

If we as GPs are to empower patients to take ownership, be proactive about their health and access health care appropriately; then using technology, where we are assured of it’s value and safety is an important part of this commitment. Great apps can help clinicians to engage with patients dynamically, deliver better care and help preserve our limited NHS resources.

Dr Sanjeev Maharaj

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Health professionals think health apps would really benefit their patients

Health professionals think health apps would really benefit their patients

Liz Ashall-Payne, founder of the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA)  talked exclusively to BJ-HC about the complex process of reviewing apps.

“The developer community is at large quite immature; what we find is that when we review an app, the process is so complicated that the app developer cannot possibly know about every single process and every single standard.

“As a clinician, you do not have time to find which app is the best, you do not have time to find out whether they are valid or they are safe; I am a clinician by background, I know exactly what the challenges are.

“With our review process, we have a team that meets every six weeks so if you’re a singlehanded app developer you are probably missing an element of what you need to do to make your app and that is really important because a lot of our developers are not huge companies,” she added.

[London, UK] A new study shows there is a strong belief among mHealth app developers that platforms “will become an integrated part of the healthcare system” while reducing the costs for hospital readmission and length of stay.


Research2guidance published their 6th annual study on mHealth in October last year, analysing the current status and trends of the global market.

Since 2015, reportedly 100,000 mHealth apps have been added although the demand side has gradually decreased from 35% to only 7% this year.

The research2guidance study shows that the number of global mHealth app publishers has doubled over the past four years.

Nearly 12,000 mental health apps on the market

ORCHA figures recently showed that there were nearly 12,000 apps dealing only with mental health issues; while approximately 5,000 focused on depression and 3,000 on anxiety.

“At the same time, there might be other health areas where only one or two apps can be found,” Ashall-Payne explains.

The organisation is working with a number of different partners such as universities or the Academic Health Science Networks, which were set up by NHS England to identify, develop and adopt new technologies.

“We are working with quite a large number of both NHS and local authority communities and organisations, predominantly across Lancashire, Great Manchester and Essex.”

On a national level, they are also in the process of collaborating with NHS Digital to look at solutions that would help them endorse apps.

“Part of that conversation also includes talks with Public Health England and the National Institute of Clinical Evidence.

“If we’re looking now at what’s happening with the population, people are already using these apps and most of them have one on their phone; the NHS is still behind,” she concludes.

‘We need better apps than the ones that are available in the market’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in September that information from approved health apps will be included into personal health records in the UK, as reported by the BBC.

“We are going to make very big moves in the next 12 months into apps and wearables.

“I wear a Fitbit, many people use apps. What is going to change with apps is the way that these apps link directly into our own medical records.

“We will also in the next 12 months be having a competition because we think we need better apps than the ones that are available in the market.

“We don’t want to develop them ourselves but we want them to be developed by entrepreneurs who have the specialist knowledge and creativity to do this,” he added.


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Reviewers Wanted!

Reviewers Wanted!

Join our team of reviewers

Digital health solutions are emerging as a key element in the future strategies of the NHS and many comparable healthcare systems. The opportunities offered by health and care apps and associated wearable devices and other sensor tech are seen as one of the major ways of helping to balance the demands that are being placed on existing healthcare services.

ORCHA are the predominant provider of health and care related App Reviews to the health and care market in the UK. The ORCHA Review provides the most comprehensive and robust objective baseline assessment of health and fitness related Apps (Apps), relative compliance with current UK standards, guidelines and best practice. Its scoring approach enables end users or health and care professionals and carers to assess one App over another. The review looks at Apps from a wide array of perspectives in order that the resultant scores offer as rich and rounded a view as possible.

With over 1500 full reviews undertaken and over 170,000 Apps filtered and assessed at some level already ORCHA covers more of this exciting landscape than any comparable organisation in the world. The ORCHA approach is unique and is the only solution that can deliver truly objective analysis of the thousands of Apps that exist in this space.

The ORCHA Reviews are published to the general public through a series of websites that piggy back on relevant existing health and care organisations digital assets, essentially delivering a ‘Find an App’ solution to all and any digital platforms. This approach enables health and care organisations and communities to target and promote the use of digital health solutions with their populations and patients. ORCHA also provides a specific service for health and care professionals which supports the prescribing or recommendation of health and care Apps to their patients and service users.

ORCHA is rapidly becoming the defacto platform for finding, comparing and prescribing health and care Apps in the UK. It is already deployed across Lancashire in a partnership with all Lancashire CCG’s and Local Authorities. It is also scheduled to be rolled out in Essex, Yorkshire, Scotland and Staffordshire. ORCHA works in partnership with all the key players in digital health and has a number of strategic relationships with organisations tasked with the wider dissemination and use of these emerging solutions.

The Role

ORCHA health and care app reviewers work logically through a set of standards to assess the level , functionality and categorisation of Health and Care applications. Using the process and methodology developed by ORCHA, the reviewer will be expected to:

  1. Download the application
  2. Read all T&Cs related to the app plus written information provided about the application
  3. Test the app briefly
  4. Using the process provided categorise the application
  5. Using the process identify app functions
  6. Using the process provided assess the level of value
  7. Using the process provided assess the level of risk
  8. Ensure a register of apps reviewed or unable to review is established and maintained

Using an iterative and continuous improvement approach, the reviewer will be expected to provide feedback to enable improvements to be made to both the process and the platform.

Person Specification

You do not need to have Health and Care app knowledge or experience, though an understanding of the sector would be an advantage.

  • You should be keen on learning and have a “continuous improvement” approach to work
  • Some technical understanding or how web / mobile applications work is desirable.
  • You should have strong organisational skills, and an ability to consider multiple pieces of information to support the review process.
  • Attention to detail is a critical element in this role.
  • We want a self-starter, confident in their experience and knowledge, willing to learn, develop and add to their current skills.
  • Ability to follow due process is required.
  • A considered, positive attitude with a strong drive to “do things right” is important.
  • You should have strong written communication
  • You should have a strong ability to use spreadsheet, outlook and word
  • You should have a questioning mind, seeking to gain information to enable the review process to happen successfully


  • Review health and care applications
  • Meeting with the team to discuss the work and to capture iterative feedback
  • Maintaining a register of applications reviewed
  • Maintaining clear documentation about the reviewed apps
  • Support the team in understanding on time requirements to work through the process


If you would like to join the team and get involved in this exciting environment please contact Matt for further information.


Phone: 0151 482 9725

Healthy Apps for Healthy Schools in Essex

Healthy Apps for Healthy Schools in Essex

Anglia Ruskin Health Partnership, Active Essex, Essex County Council, and ORCHA came together recognising the need to develop a different model of health care delivery for a new digitally active generation; one that embeds a pro-active approach to ‘looking after your own health from an early age’.

The Digitally Healthy Schools Programme is a direct response to increasing levels of concern about health outcomes for young people; particularly around mental health, sexual health and identity, and underlying determinants of health such as diet, weight and exercise.

Having initially scoped the programme for 5 schools, intense interest meant that roll out was extended to include 5 secondary schools and 6 primary schools in Essex. The project is looking at how digital solutions may offer a different and more accessible route into tackling these areas of concern amongst this traditionally difficult to engage demographic. Specifically, it is exploring the potential opportunity to use health apps in schools to improve the health and wellbeing of young people.

A key, and invaluable, outcome of this project will be the wider understanding of what motivates or switches off young people to use apps as part of how they look after themselves, and how they use the apps that they download. A planned by-product, however, will be any ‘halo’ effect that extends through families and the wider communities of those students involved; demonstrating if there is a greater take up of health apps wider than the project group.

In taking this opportunity to stimulate wider population take-up of digital health aides through targeting young people, this project will also develop transferable learning for the local health and care system about how to use digital technology – effectively – as an embedded part of the care process.

Implementation will be finished and evaluated by the end of the 2016/17 academic year. At that stage, a report will be produced that will extrapolate and articulate key learning and lessons to inform the wider health and education systems as they consider whether there is a case to be made for mainstreaming this approach at scale.

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