Apps, ICS, News

ORCHA and ICS partnership to give entire South West region access to a digital health library

ORCHA – the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps – has formed a new partnership with seven Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) in the South West of the UK, to provide the region’s population with access to digital health libraries.

Having previously created an app library for Our Dorset, which is a collaboration between several health and care organisations, ORCHA already had a presence in the area. Healthcare staff in Dorset have been using the tool to suggest apps to patients and service users and, through the library, over 2,200 apps have so far been recommended, including for mental health, dementia, diabetes and cancer support.

According to ORCHA, the success of the Dorset programme has led to this expansion across the region, which will cover the area’s 5.6 million population, and include six additional ICSs. Those now taking part are: Somerset, Gloucestershire, Devon, Cornwall/Kernow, BSW (Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire) and BNSSG (Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire).

All seven ICSs will have their own app library, which will encompass hundreds of apps suitable to support people with a wide range of health, medical and lifestyle issues and needs. Mental health support and weight management will be focused on across the partnership, as part of a new unified approach.

Dhana Lamér, Digital Transformation Programme Manager at South West, NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “Weight management, in particular, is an issue in our region, as in every other region, as obesity can lead to type two diabetes. Our NHS clinicians will always support people on their weight loss journeys, but giving people access to top quality digital tools will help them manage their health better on a day-to-day basis.  Small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.”

ORCHA, which will manage the projects centrally, expects that this combined approach will ‘produce a cost saving of around 30 per cent’. The organisation also notes that ‘only apps which achieve a score of over 65 per cent for clinical assurance, data privacy and usability will be featured’ and reviews will also take place every time an app is updated.

Crystal Dennis, Interim Lead for Public Facing Digital Health Services, Our Dorset Digital, commented: “After Transformation Boards learned of what had been achieved in Dorset, everyone was unanimous in the view that it was a no-brainer to roll out ORCHA across the seven ICS organisations.  For reasons of safety, practicality and effectiveness, it’s a foundation platform that every part of the NHS and healthcare professionals should have access to.

Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of ORCHA, added: “Partnership working in this way across several ICSs makes sense economically but also ensures populations receive top quality digital health with consistent presentation and messaging. With this fantastic spirit of co-operation and the opportunity for all the ICSs to share experiences, we are confident we can replicate the success of Our Dorset across the entire South West region, with millions benefiting from access to brilliant health apps.”