These include Big Health, Ampersand Health and teenage mental health charity stem4.

Twelve innovators to showcase solutions in app zone hosted by ORCHA at HETT

By Leontina Postelnicu
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When it comes to health apps, concerns around data transparency and privacy or the lack of scientific evidence or peer-reviewed studies to back up their use have long plagued the digital health world. Only last week, period tracking platforms came under fire after a report from UK-based research group Privacy International found that some apps were sharing users’ personal information with Facebook.

At the beginning of October, UK-based evaluator ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Health and Care Apps) is hosting an app zone at the Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) event in London for developers to showcase solutions that have achieved some of the highest ratings in their assessments.

According to ORCHA CEO and cofounder Liz Ashall-Payne, only 15% out of 6,000 health apps evaluated, based on manual and automated processes, meet their “minimum quality standard”, and the organisation now wants to show what “gold standard” looks like.

WHAT HAPPENED

London and San Francisco-based digital therapeutics company Big Health will showcase Sleepio, a digital sleep improvement programme based on CBT. The app is currently available to around 12 million people in the UK through their employer customers, and is said to be used by more than 70,000 people in some parts of England through the NHS.

Another app selected by ORCHA is Intellin, from Gendius, which aims to provide support for people with diabetes and help them identify risks of developing complications.

“Less than 7% of diabetes sufferers use an app to manage their condition,” Ashall-Payne said. “With engaging, effective and safe apps out there, we believe now is the time that they should be used, in diabetes services and across all major health conditions.”

The other platforms are:  

  • FibriCheck - uses a smartphone’s camera and AI to monitor for heart rhythm disorders
  • SkinVision – helps users check their skin for signs of skin cancer by taking a photo
  • Brain in Hand – enables access to tailored support to help reduce anxiety and increase the independence of people with autism, learning difficulties and mental health problems
  • Smoke Free – uses more than 20 behaviour change techniques to help people stop smoking
  • Clear Fear – employs CBT to help young people with anxiety (from teenager mental health charity stem4)
  • Calm Harm – uses basic principles of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for people to manage the urge to self-harm (also from stem4)
  • My IBD Care – enables patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to track their medication, appointments and symptoms, from Ampersand Health, the Crohn’s & Colitis UK charity and specialists from King's College Hospital and Barts Health
  • eQuoo – offers a choose-your-own-adventure game for users to gain new psychological skills
  • Mush – helps connect mums to others nearby and create a community to provide parenting tips and support
  • my mhealth – apps offering support with self-management of long-term conditions, including diabetes and asthma
  • Stroke Active – seeks to improve the recovery of stroke patients and track their progress.

WHY IT MATTERS

In March, research published in Nature Digital Medicine, which looked at 73 mental health apps, found that only two provided evidence from a study using the platform. 

Meanwhile, in April, a paper published in JAMA found that 29 out of 36 apps for depression and smoking cessation transmitted data to services provided by Facebook or Google, and only 12 disclosed this “accurately” in their privacy policy. 

THE LARGER PICTURE

Last year, ORCHA started working with NHS Digital to speed up the process of adding platforms evaluated to be clinically safe and secure to use to the NHS Apps Library in England.

In August, the organisation also partnered with the Dutch Foundation for Mental Health (MIND) to support their work on creating an app signposting platform.

“We know that mental health apps can make a real difference, but with no regulations, finding safe and effective ones can be extremely hard for patients and practitioners,” Ashall-Payne said at the time.

HIMSS, owner of MobiHealthNews, is the knowledge partner for the HETT event this year. MobiHealthNews editors will be at the event filming interviews for HIMSS TV. You can find out more information here