A report from ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications) found that there has been a digital healthcare and health app ‘explosion’ since the outbreak of COVID-19.
It may seem obvious that more of us are turning to tech to improve, monitor or learn about health given the nature of the pandemic. But the ORCHA report, ‘COVID-19: Digital Health Trends’, shows that there has been a 25% rise in health app downloads since the beginning of the pandemic – a rise of roughly one million, up from four to five million downloads every day.
The report provides 15 months of app search and download data, reportedly dating back to before lockdown measures.
It found that the most popular, or most downloaded, apps were:
- Wysa (help with stress and anxiety)
- NHS Weight Loss Plan
- Smoke Free
- Low Carb Programme
- Lincus Companion (health and weight loss).
Other key findings by ORCHA, which conducts reviews and identifies digital health products for NHS Digital and other providers across a number of regions in the UK, include:
- Downloads of apps that support consumers with mental health rose by almost 200% between the summers of 2019 and 2020.
- App downloads that support consumers with diets and weight loss increased by 1,294% from mid 2019 to mid-2020.
- Downloads of apps that help consumers with diabetes jumped by 482%.
Liz Ashall-Payne, the founding CEO of ORCHA said: “COVID-19 has seen a massive upsurge in the use of health apps. Using our ORCHA app libraries, thousands of GPs and health teams are now recommending apps – more than ever before.
“And with the health and care sector under such pressure, consumers are reaching for their phones to find independent support.”
The report also looks forward, making some predictions on digital healthcare for 2021, highlighting the chance for new sectors, such as maternity and women’s health services, cancer, cardiovascular and stroke services, to get involved.
The authors have also called for improved procurement systems and education, to help professionals make prescribing these digital health tools part of their routine practice.
“With NICE having introduced guidance on digital health, 2021 will be the year when health and care staff embrace the full potential of apps – and it goes way beyond video conferencing,” added Ashall-Payne.
“We will start to see digital approaches being integrated into care pathways. For example, an app like FibriCheck will allow patients to check their heart rhythms, using a medically certified system. They’ll be able to detect arrhythmias and avoid complications like stroke.
“Another example, Vinehealth, which is approved by the NHS, helps cancer patients understand their treatment – and evidence shows that this leads to less emergency room visits.”
Download the ORCHA report for further reading or visit the official website for more information.