Liz Ashall-Payne, Founder and CEO, ORCHA

In our latest Interview Series we asked Liz Ashall-Payne, Founder and CEO of ORCHA a few questions. 

ORCHA is the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications, its mission is to get more people using great Digital Health products and services.

Part of NHS England’s NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), ORCHA works with CCGs, NHS Trusts and local authorities throughout the UK, and is expanding internationally to support the delivery of approved apps on a global scale.

The company addresses challenges such as access, awareness, trust and governance of health apps by providing an extensive App Library in which healthcare professionals can search for and subsequently recommend appropriate apps, that have been through a comprehensive testing process, to their patients.

HTN asked Liz a few questions…

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your organisation?

I started my career as a Speech and Language Therapist 20 years ago and I always remember from day one after training I was so excited to see patients and make a difference. After this my career journey then took a different path to various system and integrated care roles focused around digital health. It was at the time people were starting to buy smart phones and it was around then I had that light bulb moment and realisation that technology could touch many patients all at once.

In 2013 I worked for the AHSN as the Digital Lead and worked with companies and app developers. Around this time there were 30,000 health apps in the market. People didn’t really access them, trust them and there was no way to manage any of the potential risks. I then thought of my first business plan for ORCHA and 3 weeks later I had an investor and we’re now going through our seventh round of funding!

Our mission is to help support the distribution of great health apps and to make the review process quicker. It’s really important these apps are reviewed and re-reviewed in real-time when ever any changes or updates are made to them. We’ve developed automations to understand this and ensure the pace to re-review is there. We currently review around 400-450 apps each month.

We support organisations distribute apps at a local level down to a GP. Behind it is a strong communications plan and branded platforms to support apps being prescribed locally. There’s also support to train clinicians, professionals and organisations so they can be confident in what they are prescribing and directing patients to. Strong research backs up the use, with 71% of apps that GPs prescribe are downloaded.

We are also working with schools to promote health apps and supporting them recommend them to students. This has seen some great results on student health and also the students are then going back to their family and friends and spreading the word. This means they can go back home and discuss it with their families and provide help if family member might be stuck; it creates a dialogue around digital health and that can only be good for adoption.

Can you tell me about some of the projects you are working on?

We’re working with 25% of the NHS to support the adoption and distribution of great apps. This includes working with a number of mental health trusts so they can confidently direct people where to go for safe mental health apps. There are some dangerous mental health apps out there and often people never tell anyone about their mental health. If they go to a GP, typically the GP has three options, to offer advice, drugs or refer to the IAP pathway. None deal with the cause.

On average it takes 23 days to wait for an IAP assessment and then 40 days more if treatment is needed. We’re working with organisations so early on apps and information can be prescribed. This has seen apps used such as a mood tracker, where patients track their mood and then present the information to a clinician at the appointment. We’re working with these organisations and clinicians so they can recommend apps and services earlier and to reduce people potentially turning up at A&E in crisis.

How do you support clinicians? 

We’re passionate about helping clinicians and training the workforce with a digital health toolkit. We provide education training and a knowledge skills transfer so the workforce are ready. This is helping us to then support the communication and adoption of apps at a local level and to work with people to ensure they’re ready.

What’s important for a clinician when prescribing health apps?

In a survey we are running at the moment we asked clinicians their top 10 priorities when recommending apps and the study found clinicians want peer reviewed, accredited apps and interestingly the cost and who developed the app scored low.

With over 327,000 unregulated health apps in app stores, ORCHA’s 226-point App Review process helps professionals to break through the noise to find those that are safe, effective and easy to use.

As at June 2019, ORCHA reviewed over 4,720 apps and scored them according to their Data Privacy, Clinical Effectiveness and User Experience.