April 2017 marked the relaunch of the app library for the NHS. Currently, the library houses twenty-five apps, one of which is ‘NHS Approved’ and two of which are ‘Being Tested in the NHS’.
This is the second release for NHS.uk. In 2013 the NHS published a similar library as a pilot, but this was pulled two years later after a damning report from Imperial College London. Researchers at the University conducted a study to evaluate the range of apps the NHS was promoting and discovered serious security flaws. Private, sensitive health data users were supplying to the app were not being properly secured, and inconsistencies in privacy policies meant data was accessed, despite policies stating it wouldn’t be. There was also a lack of evidence to suggest the apps presented any accuracy or effectiveness regarding their medical advice.
For the second attempt at bringing a more user empowered system to healthcare, Juliet Bauer is leading the reigns. As the new director of digital experience for NHS.uk, Bauer’s goal is to improve the digital offerings of the NHS. In a blog post last year on the NHS website, Bauer cites the reason for wanting the role being a complicated, life-threatening pregnancy.
While commending the doctors and nurses for the work they did to save both her life and her daughter’s, Bauer argues that a lack of organised data often meant the staff were spending their valuable time trying to connect medical information, rather than utilising their skills. Bauer believes her job is to improve the NHS’ digital offerings, both for staff and patients so that situations like her own can be avoided in the future.
In the current line-up of twenty-five apps, only one is stamped with the ‘NHS Approved’ endorsement. This approval means that the NHS has deemed the app to be clinically beneficial to the user. Two other apps are ‘Being Tested in the NHS’, which means, as it sounds, that the apps are being tested to see if they can also receive the ‘NHS Approved’ endorsement. The remaining twenty-two apps carry no official endorsement but should be considered safe to use and beneficial to the user, considering their placement in the library.
Bauer believes this second launch of the library will be more successful, because of the endorsement system holding the apps to a higher standard.
Health check from home
In a separate endeavour, two new health apps are being trialled across four hospitals in Oxfordshire. Both apps enable data to be transmitted from the patient to the clinician remotely. An example of the functionality of these apps is a system designed for use by pregnant women who are suffering from gestational diabetes, a condition which affects one in ten pregnant women.
The app allows women suffering from gestational diabetes to send their blood glucose readings to their doctor from the comfort of their own home, instead of having to go to the doctors for a reading.
The hope is that these apps will help reduce the amount of visits patients make to the doctors, in particular those visiting A&E to help free up the time for medical professionals to treat those most in need of their skills.