NHS Digital enlists an ECHAlliance member “Orcha” to help populate App Library

25 September 2018

NHS Digital has enlisted the help of a third-party app evaluator to speed up the number of clinically-approved tools available on the NHS Apps Library.

Orcha uses a combination of manual and automated assessment processes to scour mobile app marketplaces for applications that can be safely used within clinical settings.

The company conducts a ‘data scrape’ of app stores, such as those belonging for Google and Apple, and then feeds the information through an algorithm that separates legitimate applications from defunct or otherwise unsafe ones.

Legitimate apps can then be collated and reviewed by human assessors to ensure they are secure and fit for clinical use.

The NHS Apps Library currently includes 70 health apps spanning online services, lifestyle advice and support for a number of health conditions.

Orcha aims to help bring more verified service onto the market at a quicker pace.

To do this, apps will be assessed against the Digital Assessment Questions (DAQ) process. Developed by NHS Digital, the methodology evaluates apps against a set of criteria including effectiveness, regulatory approval, safety, privacy, security, usability, interoperability, technical stability and change management.

Speaking to Digital Health news, Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO or Orcha, said: “There are three main challenges with mhealth apps and the use and uptake. Those are awareness, access and the ultimate barrier being trust.

“Orcha’s mission is to activate people, patients and professionals to be able to search for, find and use the best health apps in their work and lives, as trust is the biggest barrier – reviewing and knowing which are the best is critical.”

Orcha is part of the NHS Accelerator Programme and already works with 20 CCGs and NHS trusts in England.

Its enlistment by NHS Digital comes after the health body said in February that it would partner with third party assessors to increase the variety apps featured on its apps library.

Hazel Jones, Programme Director at NHS Digital, said Orcha would “provide a route for regional health and social care providers to find trusted digital tools for their patients and citizens.”

The NHS Apps Library is due to go live nationwide at the tail-end of 2018, with a target of having 100 available in time for its launch.

The primary focus will be to offer apps to patients that support them in the management of common health conditions.

The NHS hopes to have its own app ready for download by December 2018.

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