Think of any aspect of your health and wellbeing 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 - the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Application - in 2015. We review health and care apps which provides the end user and professionals with certainty that they are getting a decent solution.
The growth in m-health
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 smartphone, 75% use smartphones or tablets to search for health information online, and over 90% said 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, increased 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, (currently there are around 325,000). The widespread availability of mobile health solutions presents 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.
Mind the gap!
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, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 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
Setting a high standard from the outset is crucial to achieving long-term benefit for both patients and the organisations supporting people. 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 hopes to enable the NHS and its patients 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.
For more information on ORCHA, visit: www.orcha.co.uk