The Stack Archive Feature

Mobile health apps – do they have a future?

Mon 26 Jun 2017

Mobile health

Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO at Orcha, asks whether mobile health is the digital solution the healthcare industry has been waiting for…

There are currently 172,000 mhealth (mobile health) apps available to download from the internet but we are not yet systematically using them to manage or improve our health.

It was this frustration that prompted Liz Ashall-Payne to launch Orcha, the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Application, in 2015, to make the most of the opportunities that apps have to improve healthcare.

The organisation carries out impartial reviews of health and care related apps. These reviews are used to both help the public and healthcare professionals to find apps that they can trust and to offer guidance to app developers on raising app quality.

Reviewers look at the safety and security, clinical validity and design, testing processes and user feedback of each app and give them a value and a risk score.

The health app market is still very immature, says Ashall-Payne. Every day there are 4 million downloads of health apps – so people are actively trying to find solutions to help them either stay well or manage conditions.

But clinicians don’t have time to evaluate the ever increasing number of apps and don’t feel empowered to recommend them to patients. Research shows that the majority of apps are deleted the same day they are downloaded suggesting that consumers don’t find many of them useful.

The majority of apps that come to market have very few downloads and never achieve commercialisation

‘You might go to the App Store and type in diabetes and you will find 3000 apps. While some are amazing, others are downright dangerous. So it’s really difficult to find good a good app. Also from the developer’s point of view if somebody downloads an app and it is not useful, that is a missed opportunity to help somebody,’ says Ashall-Payne.

She says patients also need to be aware of the potential risks with health apps – the information provided may be inaccurate or their data may be shared with third parties.

App developers need help understanding the market. Apps are expensive to develop and it is really difficult for developers to differentiate their product from all the other 172,000 apps out there. The majority of apps that come to market have very few downloads and never achieve commercialisation which means they are not found and maintained.

Ashall-Payne says their reviews are designed to tackle all these issues. She hopes that in time clinicians will prescribe health apps to enhance their treatment plans, sending the prescriptions to patients’ mobile phones.

Ashall-Payne states ‘My personal concern is that people think mhealth is the perfect solution and it is not. Orcha’s mission is to help deliver improved visibility of better and safer apps. Ultimately we want to be the App Store for health and care.’

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 17.59.06 Liz Ashall-Payne will be giving a talk at the Digital Healthcare Show, taking place at London’s ExCeL, 28th – 29th June.

Register here for your complimentary pass.


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