ATA partners with ORCHA to develop approved app library

Hundreds of thousands of apps aimed at treating a wide variety of conditions are available – but their efficacy and quality remains largely unclear.
By Kat Jercich
03:13 PM
Person using a phone on a couch

The American Telemedicine Association announced a new partnership with the Daresbury, United Kingdom-based Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps this week that's aimed at giving patients access to safe, effective health apps.  

Using ORCHA's automated review process, healthcare organizations can assess apps against more than 300 measures of usability, security and quality. The ATA will work with ORCHA to develop a criteria specifically for the U.S. market and will add apps meeting that criteria to the ATA approved library.  

"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," said ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson in a statement.  

WHY IT MATTERS  

Hundreds of thousands of mobile apps, ostensibly aimed at treating a wide variety of health conditions, are available in stores. But the ability of those apps to actually help patients remains unclear. Furthermore, app stores have no regulation or criteria in place to assist patients or clinicians with choosing one app over another.

It has become increasingly important to equip individuals with knowledge about such apps, said the ATA and ORCHA – particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, when an increasing number of patients are turning to remote care and telehealth.

"This partnership will enable healthcare providers to better spot the best health apps from the hundreds of thousands available in app stores," said ORCHA CEO Liz Ashall-Payne. "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."  

According to the organizations, of the more than 4,000 health apps available in the United States that ORCHA has evaluated against its criteria, only 15% meet quality thresholds of healthcare, security or usability.   

The hope is that by developing a library of ATA-approved apps, health providers, insurers and employers will be able to recommend the best selections for patients, said the groups.  

"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," said Mond Johnson.  

THE LARGER TREND  

The Wild West of health apps has been subject to increasing scrutiny over the years, particularly with the expansion of wearables and other monitoring tools that sync to mobile devices.   

App-makers themselves may not even be aware of best practices, said Ashall-Payne in an interview with MobiHealthNews last year.  

"It’s quite a fast-changing landscape of regulation and requirements, and so absolutely we have to support the innovators, but equally, once they’re informed of those requirements, they need to step up," she said.  

ORCHA also partnered with UK-based UX design and development agency Sigma earlier this year to try and improve app usability and accessibility.  

ON THE RECORD  

"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,” said ATA President Dr. Joseph Kvedar.   

"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," he said.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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