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US partnership aims to raise the bar on health apps

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The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has announced a new partnership with ORCHA (Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps) to create a review process for the US to enable healthcare providers, insurers, and employers to give patients access to safe and effective health apps.

ORCHA’s automated, intelligent review engine allows healthcare organisations to assess thousands of apps against more than 300 measures in order to build and manage a health app programme.

Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the ATA, said: “The proliferation of health apps has created challenges for healthcare providers and patients seeking to find the most appropriate, safe, and effective health apps to monitor their health and wellness, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and securely collect and transmit personal health information.

“We are delighted to partner with ORCHA to address this critical need and give both patients and providers greater confidence in selecting safe and effective apps. Chat-based interactions and asynchronous tools are an important component of telehealth offerings and can help ensure that everyone has access to safe, effective, and appropriate care when and where they need it.”

The ATA will work with ORCHA to develop a review process and criteria that meet the specific needs of the US market.

App developers will be able have their app reviewed against ORCHA’s more than 300 measures.

If the app meets the criteria, it will be added to the ATA library of approved apps. Health providers, insurers and employers will be able to use this trusted platform to build their own dedicated health app library with high quality apps suitable for their patients.

“This partnership will enable healthcare providers to better spot the best health apps from the hundreds of thousands available in app stores. It can also arm clinical staff with the software that will enable them to connect the right apps with the right patients at the right time,” added Liz Ashall Payne, CEO, ORCHA.

ORCHA has evaluated more than 4,000 health apps currently available in the U.S. against its criteria and found only 15% meet quality thresholds.

Most apps fail to meet healthcare, security or usability standards established to safeguard patients.

Such quality standards apply across apps for all health conditions, from fitness to heart conditions.

For example, ORCHA has assessed 584 apps designed to support people with mental health conditions and found only 29.6% meet quality thresholds.

Joseph C. Kvedar, president of the ATA. said: “There are many safe and effective health apps built by U.S. innovation companies that have the potential to help individuals create and sustain healthy habits, monitor health conditions, and share important personal health information with their providers, family members, and caregivers. The mission of the ATA is to create access to quality care for all individuals and this is another important step, ensuring people have access to safe and appropriate digital health apps.”

ORCHA is an independent digital health evaluation and distribution organisation. It helps “health and care organisations to deliver the right digital health apps, to the right people, at the right time”.

It conducts reviews for government organisations across Europe, the Middle East, and Australasia.

In the UK, ORCHA conducts reviews for the NHS and is part of the NHS National Innovation Accelerator Programme.

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