09 Dec 2019
The Digital Health Opportunity
In recent years, the huge surge in smartphone use and increased engagement with digital health has indicated that people are ready to take the opportunities offered by mHealth. Further to the hundreds of thousands of health apps on the market, five-million people download a health app every day, with over 90% of health professionals believing that apps could help their patients. As such, it is clear that digital health solutions are becoming more embedded in everyday life and health practice.
The challenge remains, however, that the majority of health and care apps available on app stores are unregulated. Consequently, it is difficult for both consumers and healthcare professionals to trust the potential of digital health, without clarity in which health apps are most clinically effective.
The Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health tackles the issues
The Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health was formed by Health Ministers to act as a central Hub to help with the adoption of Digital Health across the Commonwealth. Recognising the role that health apps play and the need by clinicians to be able to identify and recommend safe and effective apps, the Centre partnered with The Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA).
ORCHA is the trusted source for health app advice. Part of NHS England’s NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), ORCHA provides impartial advice to health bodies across the world. ORCHA works with many Health and Care providers and payers across England, Ireland, Holland and Estonia, and is expanding internationally to support the delivery of approved apps on a global scale. In England, ORCHA works with 25% of the NHS, helping to facilitate clarity and trust in digital healthcare delivery.
ORCHA helps health bodies across the world tackle the challenge of integrating mHealth into their health and social care services. Its unique app evaluation service can meet the scale of the market, pace of development and breadth of test requirements. Consequently, ORCHA monitors and assesses more health apps than anyone in the world.
With over 365,000 health apps available, ORCHA’s 260-point App Review process breaks through the noise of unregulated and untrustworthy apps. It’s vital that health and care professionals are armed with the tools to integrate digital health safely and effectively within everyday practice, but there are a number of key barriers to mHealth adoption. ORCHA addresses challenges such as access, awareness, trust and governance of health apps by providing an extensive App Library in which healthcare professionals can search for and subsequently recommend appropriate apps to their patients.
The dynamic nature of the digital health landscape is reflected in ORCHA’s continually expanding health app library, ORCHA’s process of re-reviewing apps as they update and change, and the way in which the organisation works to improve access to excellent digital health for clinicians, patients and populations. Without such a service, it would be difficult to understand which apps are safe. ORCHA resolves this challenge by enabling trusted digital health adoption for multiple healthcare organisations and professionals which, in turn, increases the uptake of digital health across populations.
As at December 2019, ORCHA has reviewed almost 6,000 apps and scored them according to their Data Privacy, Clinical Effectiveness and User Experience. ORCHA arms healthcare professionals with a digital prescription tool that allows them to quickly and easily recommend the best apps to patients, according to individual health needs.
How is Uganda safely adopting health apps?
The Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health is working with ORCHA to enable it to offer all members of the Commonwealth a bespoke national health app library.
Each library features evaluated apps that meet the health challenges and demographics in a region. Health professionals can easily compare app scores, read independent assessments and prescribe an app to a patient, ensuring they are recommended exactly the right app. The clinician can also monitor if the app has been downloaded.
Uganda identified the benefits such a library would have for its population, and is the first member from the Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health to introduce a library for its region. With a population of over 41 million people, many living far from health services, access to support and advice using a mobile phone offers a significant opportunity.
The team in Uganda have identified a number of advantages to patients and professionals. The key benefit is firstly to individual patients and citizens, as the library will support them to find trusted apps to improve their health and wellbeing. Additionally, clinical professional groups across health and care providers will now be able to prescribe and clinically implement safe apps.
A digital future in Uganda and across the Commonwealth
In order for digital healthcare to continue evolving, it is necessary to support clinicians in embracing digital health. By providing a range of digital health solutions to organisations and professionals, The Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health, together with ORCHA, facilitates the successful integration of digital care into patient pathways, thereby allowing health and care services to become more patient-centred.
Working with Ugandan healthcare organisations to provide a bespoke app library is increasing access to high quality mHealth services, especially to patients requiring remote support. It’s enabling clinicians to utilise trustworthy digital health resources and so keep pace with a market that is rapidly expanding and developing.
To find out more about building bespoke health libraries across the Commonwealth, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
ORCHA's feature in the Uganda UK Health Alliance's (UUKHA) latest Newsletter can be found on page 16 via this link.