15 Jul 2020
COVID-19 has led to a dramatic increase in Digital Health within NHS services. But as lockdown restrictions are lifted, experts fear the industry’s mHealth progress could stall or even reverse. The Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA) publishes in JMIR mHealth and uHealth, research that quantifies for the first time, what is most required by healthcare professionals to prescribe Digital Health, and reveals what factors are limiting adoption.
The team at ORCHA found a NHS badge for Digital Health overwhelmingly came in as the most important factor for take-up, followed by peer opinion and personal use of the technology. Although published studies after often called for, these were named, but it would take 5 published studies to be as convincing as one NHS stamp of approval, and 2 published studies to be as convincing as a peer recommendation of the app.
Two factors were also identified that directly correlate with a drop in Digital Health usage. Both patient age and the cost of digital health were linked with a reduced likelihood of prescribing. This is worrying because, as people age and become more susceptible to long-term health conditions, they are less likely to be recommended digital health to manage their health. A drop in prescription for paid-for digital health is also a concern, as it may reflect an inherent lack of understanding of the value digital health brings.
On a positive note, only 8% of healthcare professionals are reluctant to use digital health. These are most likely to be aged over 55 or not using a health app themselves, giving organisations clear routes to target education programmes.
Commenting on the research, Simon Leigh, Health Economist, ORCHA, said: “Now is a critical time for Digital Health. Adoption has rocketed during COVID-19, but as the requirement for remote consultations fades, so too may the industry’s take-up of digital health.
“This research reveals the underlying attitudes and wants from healthcare professionals. It’s important for providers to consider these needs, if the NHS is to achieve its long-term digital transformation ambitions.”
Health economists at ORCHA conducted research with 230 UK healthcare professionals, using a series of focus groups, ranking exercises, and a discrete choice experiment. The research can be found here: https://mhealth.jmir.org/2020/7/e17704/