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Health app adoption on the up as users report benefits

Mobile healthcare app take-up is at a pivotal moment and clinicians will play a key role in the next phase of adoption

Mobile health app adoption is on the increase in the UK and users are reporting improving health and wellbeing, according to a survey.

The survey of 2,000 people earlier this year, carried out by the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA), found that 47% now use healthcare apps, compared with 38% last year.

Of those who use healthcare apps, 83% said the apps helped to improve their health and wellbeing, with more than one-third declaring the apps very helpful.

The survey found that people are regularly using apps, with 75% doing so on a weekly basis and about half of these logging in multiple times a day.

Simon Leigh, head of research at ORCHA, said this feels like a pivotal moment for the take-up of healthcare apps. “Digital health represents a massive opportunity to both improve patient outcomes and alleviate some of the burden on the NHS,” he said.

But for healthcare apps to move to the next level of adoption and ensure they improve outcomes for users, healthcare professionals must be more engaged in understanding what the apps offer and make recommendations to users. Currently, only 55% of people use apps recommended by health professionals, according to the survey.

Leigh added: “Despite all this good news, still only around half our respondents had digital health from a healthcare professional, leaving the rest in the hands of Google and friends. We wouldn’t do that with medicines or any other aspect of healthcare – it’s a huge risk.”

He said only about 20% of the many thousands of health apps that ORCHA reviews meet its quality standards, which are used to rubber-stamp apps to reassure users that they are clinically backed and are safe with patient data.

The survey revealed differences between regions in terms of health app adoption, and said adoption is high in London because of “tech-savvy” clinical staff making recommendations. In London, 68% of those surveyed had used a digital health app, with 21% of those doing so after a recommendation from a healthcare professional.

Meanwhile, in East Anglia, 35% of those surveyed had used a healthcare app and just 9% of those did so after an endorsement from a doctor. Advice from medical staff could accelerate take-up in the region, with 51% of people there open to using healthcare apps.

Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of ORCHA, which is based in the North West, said: “We have to level up with digital health, providing nationwide tools and training for all front-line NHS staff so they know how to recommend the best products, or we’ll have pockets across the UK where citizens are disenfranchised from this revolution in healthcare.”

The government has set a target for 75% of adults in England to use the NHS App by March 2024.

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