EurekApp! : My Digital Health Journey with ORCHA by Liz Ashall-Payne
Think of any aspect of your health and well-being 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 to provide the end-user and healthcare professionals with certainty that they are getting a decent solution.
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 smart phone, 75% use smartphones or tablets to search for health information online, and over 90% said that they 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 presented 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. 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. 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 to 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.
Written by Liz Ashall-Payne
CEO & Founder of ORCHA