Webinar: Ambiguous advice, questionable quality: Determining & evaluating the quality of Health Apps

Presenter: Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO, ORCHA

Monday 20th January, 12PM

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Topics covered: mHealth Digital Health Innovation transformational change

Webinar Overview

If you can think of an ailment, concern, or any aspect of health and wellbeing which you wish to monitor or improve, you can be certain that there already exists an app for it. There may be ten, one hundred, or even upwards of a thousand. What is uncertain is whether such apps will work as advertised, and, most significantly, whether they will ‘first, do no harm’.

In the wake of unprecedented National Health Service (NHS) efficiency savings, increasing waiting lists, and a looming shortage of trained medical professionals, patients are increasingly turning to mHealth. With an estimated 385,000 health apps available for download as of 2019, this novel therapeutic medium is rapidly gaining momentum. The convenience and widespread availability of mobile-health presents an accessible, affordable and alluring opportunity to those looking to proactively manage their health and wellbeing. Without substantial regulatory processes, however, patients risk becoming vulnerable to unregulated and largely un-validated apps.

Despite the significant potential for health-apps to enhance the efficient and timely delivery of healthcare, there are currently numerous drawbacks when contemplating the use of these unregulated and largely un-validated technologies. Due to the rigorous processes involved in the evaluation of both safety and effectiveness, substandard pharmaceuticals and medical devices rarely make it to market. However, the same cannot currently be said of health apps. The reality is that there exists a considerable gap between the potential benefits that apps could provide in theory, and what they are currently likely delivering in practice. Recent reviews in the therapeutic areas of bulimia [1], asthma [2], PTSD [3], insulin dosing [4], and suicide prevention [5], have yielded disturbing conclusions regarding the quality, scientific basis, and often blatant disregard for safety [6], that characterise a great number of health-apps available to consumers.

To ameliorate this expanding divide between the number of app users, and the number of evidence-based health-apps, it is likely that large-scale evaluative frameworks are required.

Hear how ORCHA, along with other key organisations, is working to overcome this challenge by identifying and actively promoting the most clinically effective, safe, and beneficial apps to patients, professionals and systems.

Learning objectives

To develop a greater understanding and knowledge of the opportunity the mHealth app landscape offersTo further understand the barriers & challenges of mHealth and Digital HealthTo understand where organisations and national bodies including NHSD have overcome these challengesTo learn from case studies of work where mHeath Apps are being utilised to transform health and care outcomes

About the presenter

Passionate about the opportunities that technology offers to improve health and care efficiencies and outcomes, Liz founded ORCHA, determined to present much needed guidance to help raise app quality, as well as helping the public and professionals to confidently find and apply apps that could genuinely improve outcomes.

Initially a Speech and Language Therapist, Liz has almost 20 years Health Care experience across UK and Europe and has successfully led innovative change and service transformation in complex health economies.


[1] Nicholas J, Larsen ME, Proudfoot J, et al. Mobile apps for bipolar disorder: a systematic review of features and content quality. J Med Internet Res 2015;17:e198

[2] Huckvale, K, Car, M, Morrison, C, Car, J (2012). Apps for asthma self-management: a systematic assessment of content and tools. BMC Med, 10:144.

[3] Olff M. Mobile mental health: a challenging research agenda. Eur J Psychotraumatol 2015;6:27882.

[4] Huckvale, K, Adomaviciute, S, Prieto, JT, Leow, MK, Car, J (2015). Smartphone apps for calculating insulin dose: a systematic assessment. BMC Med, 13:106.

[5] Larsen, ME, Nicholas, J, Christensen, H (2016). A Systematic Assessment of Smartphone Tools for Suicide Prevention. PLoS ONE, 11, 4:e0152285.

[6] The Daily Mail: Health warning over blood pressure monitoring apps as doctors warn they are ‘untested, inaccurate and potentially dangerous’. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2887791/Health-warning-blood-pressure-apps-doctors-warn-untested-inaccurate-potentially-dangerous.html