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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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.

Driving mHealth uptake in Lancashire

Driving mHealth uptake in Lancashire

ORCHA have partnered up with Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, through the Lancashire Digital Health Programme, to face the challenge of making mHealth accessible across the disparate communities of Lancashire and South Cumbria. With the Programme involving the Councils, NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, and numerous other organisations across the region, this work with ORCHA has become a key delivery project.

Dr Amanda Thornton, Clinical Director at Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, explains where she sees the value of ORCHA to the population of Lancashire and South Cumbria:

After months of preparation, testing (including with patients and clinicians) and tweaking, the region’s own portal is live and creating a buzz. Health and care professionals are now familiarising themselves with the range of apps that are available for each condition or category, using the ORCHA review to inform their decisions, and making and managing recommendations through their very own ORCHA Pro pages. Members of the public are enjoying the confidence that comes with knowing which apps will have the best impact for them, and which will look after their personal data.

This progress is seeing the momentum building across the region that will ultimately lead to a cultural shift towards ownership of ‘your’ own health, and a focus on prevention/management rather than cure. It’s at that stage that real health improvements and a reduction in pressure on the local health and care systems will be tangible.

If you’re a health or care professional in the region, get in touch with to find out more about how to get your very own ORCHA Pro account. If you’re a member of the public in the region, visit the portal and start making the most of the benefits it offers, or speak to your health and care professionals to find out if they’re signed up yet.

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