Health apps and their uptake, use and effectiveness

George Kowalski, Business Development Director and Kate Gilding, Marketing Manager at ORCHA discuss health apps and their uptake, use and effectiveness.

In recent years, the huge surge in smartphone use and increased engagement with digital health has led to people being ready to take the opportunities offered by mobile health (mHealth). Further to the hundreds of thousands of health apps on the market, five million people download a health app every day, with over 90% of health professionals believing that apps could help their patients. As such, it is clear that digital health solutions can be embedded into everyday life and health practice.

The challenge remains, however, that the majority of health and care apps available on app stores are unregulated. Consequently, it is difficult for both consumers and healthcare professionals to trust the potential of digital health, without clarity in which health apps are most clinically effective.

Whilst there is an app for almost any condition, the crucial factor is empowering consumers to use good, safe, trustworthy health apps. As consumers’ expectations are constantly changing, there is an onus on industry to adapt to the needs and wants of the end user, as well as to realise that one app does not fit all.

“Health apps are not intended to replace traditional methods, but to enhance them”


Health apps are infinitely useful as education tools, allowing users to obtain medical information and monitor trends to track individual progress or manage a condition. It is important, therefore, that they are integrated into health pathways in such a way that provides the most effective and current care for patients. But, with over 365,000 health apps available to download, how can digital health be introduced safely and effectively?

The Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA) addresses this challenge, and has built a unique health app review platform which improves access, trust and governance of health apps – vital for encouraging digital health adoption. Part of NHS England’s NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), ORCHA provides impartial advice to health bodies across the world. ORCHA works with many health and care providers and payers across England, Ireland, Holland and Estonia, and is expanding internationally to support the delivery of approved apps on a global scale. In England, ORCHA works with 25% of the NHS, helping to facilitate clarity and trust in digital healthcare delivery.

Trust is the biggest barrier to the uptake of digital health, but ORCHA’s 260-point App Review process breaks through the noise of unregulated and untrustworthy apps. As of January 2020, ORCHA has reviewed almost 6000 apps and scored them according to their Data Privacy, Clinical Assurance and User Experience.

It’s vital that health and care professionals are able to integrate digital health safely and effectively within everyday practice. As such, ORCHA’s extensive review engine platform, through which healthcare professionals can search for and subsequently recommend appropriate apps to their patients, helps health bodies across the world to tackle the challenge of integrating mHealth into their health and social care services.

“The crucial factor is empowering consumers to use good, safe, trustworthy health apps”

The initial idea for ORCHA came from thinking about how to improve efficiency and the quality of services to benefit more patients in the healthcare industry, as the provision of digital health solutions, such as apps, can help multiple patients at once. Working with healthcare organisations to provide a bespoke App Library is increasing access to trustworthy mHealth services, especially to patients requiring remote support.

Digital health can have the best success by being used alongside traditional healthcare services and products. Health apps are not intended to replace traditional methods, but to enhance them. For instance, sometimes a drug may be most effective, sometimes an app on its own, and sometimes a combination of the two. The way forward is for pharma and digital health companies to work together, rather than being in competition.

In order for digital healthcare to continue evolving, it is necessary to support clinicians in embracing digital health. By providing a range of mHealth solutions to organisations and professionals, the successful integration of digital care into patient pathways is facilitated, thereby allowing health and care services to become more patient-centred.


George Kowalski is Business Development Director & Kate Gilding is Marketing Manager at ORCHA. Go to


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