Apps can make an enormous difference to healthy economies and the ability for citizens to ‘self-care’, but with over 303,000 of them on the market, the sheer scale of choice and ambiguity about standards undermines the confidence needed to encourage their use and adoption.
In 2016, ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps) and the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) formed a partnership in response to this challenge, out of a mutual understanding of:
- the need to make this market more accessible to the public
- the need to support its development.
Established by Liz Ashall-Payne, a digital champion and experienced health care professional, ORCHA helps people find the best apps to help them live healthier lives, avoid the development of long-term conditions, and manage existing conditions. With ORCHA reviewing apps based on their user experience, clinical efficacy and data security, patients and healthcare professionals alike know which apps are the best fit for each individual.
The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN is one of 15 Academic Health Science Networks established by NHS England to lead projects on improved patient safety, cost reductions to the NHS, and the accelerated spread and adoption of new technology. In response to this, Yorkshire & Humber AHSN realised the benefit of working in partnership with ORCHA to provide knowledge, assistance and advice to companies in the process of developing apps.
Under the agreement, the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN refer app developers to ORCHA for a discounted review to ensure its effectiveness and safety. In the 18 months that the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has had an agreement with ORCHA, it has referred numerous app developers to its services, ranging from SMEs, innovative clinicians, and multi-national companies, for example, Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Care.
Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Care approached the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN to discuss the development of a new programme to promote the self-management of type-1 diabetes using its glucose testing systems in association with a patient mobile health app to improve glycaemic control and self-management. As this included an app, the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, in line with their policy for app developers, referred them to ORCHA.
ORCHA reviewed Johnson & Johnson’s app whilst in development, looking at best practice regarding the ORCHA Review Process. Whilst the app was highly regarded as a positive tool for the promotion and enablement of self-management of type-1 diabetes, the feedback received from ORCHA allowed Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Care to further improve the app’s usability.
Irfan Mohammed, Strategic Affairs Manager at Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Care said “At Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Care we are committed to continuous improvement and development of our diabetes care solutions. The feedback we received from ORCHA was invaluable and helped us to ensure that our digital diabetes care solutions, effectively support people living with diabetes.”
Sophie Bates, Commercial Partnerships and Projects Manager at the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, continued: “The agreement with ORCHA provides us with the reassurance that the apps that we promote to the wider healthcare community have been validated by an organisation that is recognised by the NHS for their professionalism and clarity. That an organisation as large and as well-renowned as Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Care has engaged with ORCHA clearly illustrates the regard for ORCHA’s service.”
Andy Jeans, Head of Implementations at ORCHA, said “If we are to truly empower people to use health and care apps to an extent that will impact our healthcare system, it is vital that the best apps possible are available for download. Our partnership with the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, therefore, demonstrates our commitment to working with partners and app developers to strengthen the health and care app market.”
Through the continued agreement with ORCHA, it is hoped that apps developed in the region will be valued and recognised for their clinical efficacy, ease of use and positive results on patient care.