Whether you are diabetic, depressed, pregnant or looking to exercise, it seems there is an app for every occasion.

But with 170,000 health apps now available, how do we know they are appropriate for our condition and reliable?

That question led Liz Ashall-Payne to found online database ORCHA, which features independent reviews.

“People do not know whether the health apps they use work properly or are safe, unless they use ORCHA,” she told BusinessCloud. “Our aim is to become the de facto place for health and care apps.

"Do I see myself as the Martin Lewis of the healthcare app sector? Why not! It’s a needed role.”

Ashall-Payne, co-founder of the Liverpool-based firm with CTO Andy Davidson, has experience of working in NHS senior management. She also represents HealthTech Women in the North of England.

The former manager of a professional fighter, she has certainly boxed clever with her latest venture after securing the backing of Sir Terry Leahy, who transformed the British supermarket industry as CEO of Tesco.

Ashall-Payne suffers from diabetes, but declines to say which apps she might use herself to help with the condition. “At ORCHA we are ‘appnostic’… what works for me won’t work the same for others.”

She says apps can put technology at the heart of health and care pathways but cites the lack of independent reviews to ensure their effectiveness, safety or value to users and professionals. 

The Orcha websiteOrcha
The Orcha website

The framework behind ORCHA – developed, designed and delivered in just 18 months at a cost of £3,000-4,000 – is built on published academic research, standards, regulatory systems, codes of practice, guidelines and quality criteria of the app stores.

The company works with more than 20 Clinical Commissioning Groups and healthcare providers such as Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool CCG and Essex County Council. It is aimed at everyone, from professionals to patients, citizens, carers and people within organisations.

“Most work in this arena to date has focused on one stakeholder group,” explained Ashall-Payne. “Myhealthapps.net is for patients, Our Mobile Health is aimed at professionals and app developers, while NHS Library is for clinicians.

“ORCHA is the only organisation which offers a one-stop shop for all stakeholders.”

ORCHA also plans to offer tailored reports on user data to health and social service organisations.The aim is to drag up the overall quality of the thriving health app industry.

“The standards we use to assess and review apps also provide app developers with detailed feedback and insights for free, giving them unparalleled information about how to develop higher quality and safer apps than ever before.”

Mobile health solutions will soon ease the burden on the creaking Health Service, she added.

“Over the next 12 months we aim to see a growth in the number of local app sites and professionals recommending apps to their citizens and patients – and therefore the number of people using mHealth will grow,” she said.

“By working with a whole ecosystem of companies and organisations we hope to drive a real transformation in this area, meaning we can see better health and care outcomes for the population of the UK.”

ORCHA FACTS

  • Stands for ‘Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications’
  • Users can search for an app related to their needs or compare apps
  • 118-point review process simplified into a rating system for users
  • ‘Micro-site’ product helps healthcare providers integrate health app portals into their existing systems (costs start at £3,500 for set-up plus £1,500 a year)
  • ORCHA Pro product enables health and care professionals to securely recommend apps to patients then monitor and track results (costs calculated on a per user, per month basis, starting at £9.50 and decreasing as the number of users enters moves up through the hundreds)