Thousands of people in Lancashire and South Cumbria have used a new health and care app comparison site since its launch at the start of the year.
ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications) carries out independent and impartial reviews of health and care-related apps – making it easy to find and compare the best apps for particular health needs.
More than 3,000 local patients and approximately 50 GPs have been using the platform since its launch in January, while health organisations in Lancashire and South Cumbria – the Lancashire and Bay Partners – are working closely with NHS-backed ORCHA.
Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO of ORCHA, said: “This has been a tremendously encouraging launch and the platform will now be rolled out in Essex, Liverpool, and nationally with Right at Home a Care provider and will be tested in parts of America over the next few months. If more people can use the best health apps and better manage their health, we are one step towards the goal of connecting proven technology to the health care system.”
There are now more than 172,000 mobile apps that claim to improve health and wellbeing, self-monitor, manage treatments and help develop prevention strategies, and 4 million health apps are downloaded every day. As most apps are either free or very low cost, and with more smartphones in the UK than there are people, most people can access mobile apps.
But the quality of health apps available to the public varies, with some offering no medical benefit, or presenting risks to the user.
Dr Amanda Thornton, Clinical Director for Lancashire Care Foundation Trust and a digital champion, said:
“ORCHA is a hugely exciting development for the people of Lancashire and South Cumbria as well as the clinicians who support them. Health and care apps can offer a huge benefit to patients, really empowering them to manage and improve their health. However, there is a huge choice out there, so ORCHA really helps people to understand which are the best and most trustworthy.“
Declan Hadley, Digital Lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria Change Programme, said:
“This will help us to bring true digital health innovation to Lancashire and South Cumbria. It is also one of the many exciting projects we have lined up as part of our Digital Roadmap.”
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 other tech such as associated wearable devices, are seen as a major way of helping to balance the demands that are being placed on existing healthcare services.
However, neither common platforms, Google Play or the App Store, offer any information on the quality of mobile apps. Using these platforms to find and compare apps can be a confusing process.