Message from our Founder – Liz Ashall-Payne

Message from our Founder – Liz Ashall-Payne

Think of any aspect of your health and wellbeing which you might want to improve upon. Have you ever tried to search the app store for a solution? You can be certain that an app already exists for it, there may even be upwards of a thousand! What is not certain is whether these health apps will work for you. Which is why I founded ORCHA in 2015. We review health and care apps, which provide the end user and professionals with the certainty that they are getting a decent solution.


 The growth in m-health

Apps are presenting new and exciting opportunities for both users and the NHS. As of 2015, it was estimated that 71% of Britons (45.5million in total) owned a smartphone, 75% use smartphones or tablets to search for health information online, and over 90% said that would use mobile-health services to talk with healthcare professionals. Apps enable the possibility of making positive changes from the comfort of your own home, without the hassle of long waiting lists and fitting in appointments to an already busy schedule.

When I had the idea to set up ORCHA, it was in the wake of unprecedented National Health Service (NHS) efficiency savings, increasing waiting lists, and a looming shortage of trained medical professionals. Those of us who are concerned with proactively managing our health are increasingly turning to mobile (or ‘m-health’), and the use of unregulated apps. This infant industry was quickly gathering momentum with an estimated 170,000 health apps available for download as of 2015. The widespread availability of mobile health solutions presents an accessible, affordable and inviting opportunity. Yet there was little regulation within this growing industry. My idea was to provide a review system, which would guarantee quality to the end user, and to provide health and care systems with a vehicle which would enable them to get the best apps to their patients and citizens.


Mind the gap!

The reality is that there exists a considerable gap between the potential benefits that apps could provide in theory, and what they are likely delivering in practice. Recent reviews in the therapeutic areas of bulimia, asthma, PTSD, and even suicide prevention have shown disturbing conclusions regarding the quality, scientific basis and often blatant disregard for safety, of a great number of apps available.


Why we need to regulate this industry?

Setting a high standard from the outset is crucial to achieving long-term benefit for both patients and the NHS. Through identifying and actively promoting the most clinically effective, safe and beneficial apps earlier in an individual’s m-health journey, all the potential benefits of apps have a far greater chance of being realised.

ORCHA have now enabled the NHS and its patients can begin take full advantage of the apps revolution and engage with this 21st century solution. We hope that this will result in a more flexible and accessible healthcare system. But only through identifying a means of assessing the quality, safety, value and risk of the hundreds of thousands of apps available to choose from, can we begin to do so.

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My Health UK

My Health UK

My Health UK has been developed by GPs from Elizabeth Street Surgery in Blackpool to address the challenges that have been facing general practice in recent years:

  • Empowering patients and encouraging self-care to be at the heart of their health,
  • Improving access by reducing the 60,000 missed GP appointments every day,
  • Targeting patients that need to be seen in primary care, and
  • Reducing the administrative burden and cost in primary care

The problem facing the developers of My Health UK, however, was how to differentiate their app within a saturated market so that they could sell it to the NHS. They needed it to be validated to make sure it would be seen as robust in the eyes of clinicians and patients, and they needed to make the app using community aware of their progress.

My Health UK on ORCHA website

Dr Sanjeev Maharaj, the driving force behind My Health UK, sought ORCHA to see how they could help. He was not only interested in how ORCHA could ensure My Health UK reached its true potential, but also loved what he knew of ORCHA and wanted to help ensure that ORCHA itself delivered for the healthcare system as a whole. As Dr Maharaj explains “ORCHA had a great concept of validating health apps to make it easy for patients and clinicians to choose the app that could improve health outcomes. What’s more, the value and risk score makes it easy at a glance to identify safe and appropriate apps.”

Understanding the potentially symbiotic relationship between the two organisations, they set out a plan to improve the robustness of their respective offerings; working together to review My Health UK using ORCHA’s review process, before discussing their findings in terms of both products.

By working collaboratively, the organisations had designed a process that added an additional level of robustness i) to My Health UK in terms of data security and user experience, and ii) to ORCHA around clinical pathways and clinician experience.

On the back of its ORCHA review, My Health UK was amended and re-reviewed – and now takes its place as one of the highest rated apps on every ORCHA portal and micro-site. My Health UK is now being successfully sold, and the success continues as Dr Maharaj has recently announced the agreement of an interface with EMIS “The My Health UK and EMIS partnership has created a unique interface and functionality not seen in primary care until now.” He explains how valuable this ORCHA experience has been in their success… “using an organisation like ORCHA can provide valuable insight, can help you create a product that can potentially have high value, and most importantly can help your app reach its target audience and reach its potential.”

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