ABOUT THIS PORTAL

Apps present a fantastic opportunity to provide us with valuable information which can help not only improve the quality of our care, but also help us to live healthier lives. The market is awash with apps, though, and we have no ability to see whether what is being downloaded will actually improve our lives or if our personal data will be stored safely.

For that reason, we at TSA have partnered up with ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications) to provide this site to:

  • Help you choose the best app for you, your family and your service users
  • Give our members the opportunity to promote your apps nationally.

Additionally, if you have an app you want to have reviewed Get in touch and quote TSAappdiscount to get a 70% discount on the normal review charge.

 

SEE HOW IT WORKS

Watch the video

THE REVIEW
PROCESS

The ORCHA Review process is the most advanced review mechanism for health and care Apps available anywhere. It is the only truly comprehensive assessment of the Apps that are available on the two primary App stores ‘health, wellbeing/fitness and medical’ categories.

Our review looks at a range of elements of an Apps offer rather than just focusing on one aspect or area and it is entirely objective and based on a robust examination of quantifiable evidence and data. Some aspects of the review are automated which provides an initial filter and information gathering function. The rest of the review is undertaken by our highly trained review team. The expert input comes from our review development team, who collectively have designed and continue to refine the structure and content of the review to reflect best practice, guidance and emerging regulation.

  • The ORCHA Review is primarily an assessment of an Apps compliance with current standards, regulation and good practice (together “Standards”). The ORCHA Review seeks to assess an Apps performance through its compliance with these Standards. Our Review is regularly updated to reflect changes in these standards. The higher the ORCHA Score achieved the more compliant the App is with these Standards and vice versa.
  • Whilst a high scoring App is not guaranteed to be effective or safe or a poorly scoring App is not necessarily ineffective or unsafe, it does mean that the relevant Developer has taken more or less care over the Apps compliance with these key standards than other similar Apps. In the critical area of health and care, we believe that developers should take compliance with standards extremely seriously. No matter how good the user experience of an App might be, if the App is not safe and robust or its treatment of often sensitive health data is not clear and correct, it should be treated with caution.
  • Some Apps are technically medical devices and for class iia, iib and iii devices, require full assessment and Approval in the UK through processes overseen by the MHRA and in other jurisdictions by similar regulatory bodies. An App of this nature should not be made available to the general public until it has been assessed and appropriately certified.
  • If you become aware of any inaccuracy in the information presented in our Reviews or have any other concerns please report this to us immediately at feedback@orcha.co.uk. We do not take App Reviews down - other than to update any inaccuracies or add new information - as we believe that it is crucial for the information we capture about an App, to be available to the public to help them make informed decisions about what App might be best for them.

ORCHA are not promoting or recommending any particular Apps but simply providing impartial information about an Apps compliance with standards and a mechanism for end users to easily identify those Apps that best meet those standards and to check which ones don’t.

 

  • The ORCHA Review is primarily an assessment of an Apps compliance with current standards, regulation and good practice (together “Standards”). The ORCHA Review seeks to assess an Apps performance through its compliance with these Standards. Our Review is regularly updated to reflect changes in these standards. The higher the ORCHA Score achieved the more compliant the App is with these Standards and vice versa.

  • Whilst a high scoring App is not guaranteed to be effective or safe or a poorly scoring App is not necessarily ineffective or unsafe, it does mean that the relevant Developer has taken more or less care over the Apps compliance with these key standards than other similar Apps. In the critical area of health and care, we believe that developers should take compliance with standards extremely seriously. No matter how good the user experience of an App might be, if the App is not safe and robust or its treatment of often sensitive health data is not clear and correct, it should be treated with caution.

  • Some Apps are technically medical devices and for class iia, iib and iii devices, require full assessment and Approval in the UK through processes overseen by the MHRA and in other jurisdictions by similar regulatory bodies. An App of this nature should not be made available to the general public until it has been assessed and appropriately certified.

  • If you become aware of any inaccuracy in the information presented in our Reviews or have any other concerns please report this to us immediately at feedback@orcha.co.uk. We do not take App Reviews down - other than to update any inaccuracies or add new information - as we believe that it is crucial for the information we capture about an App, to be available to the public to help them make informed decisions about what App might be best for them.

ORCHA are not promoting or recommending any particular Apps but simply providing impartial information about an Apps compliance with standards and a mechanism for end users to easily identify those Apps that best meet those standards and to check which ones don’t.

Our  review  process  starts  with  a  weekly  analysis  of  all  the  Apps  available  on  the  App  Store  or  Google  Play  in  the  ‘health,  wellbeing/fitness  and  medical’  sections.  We  then  filter  out  Apps  that  are  not  designed  for  use  in  a  supported  Language  and  Apps  that  have  not  been  updated  for  18  months  or  more.  Of  the  remaining  Apps  we  organise  these  into  over  350  health  and  care  condition  categories  and  queue  them  within  their  category  by  most  downloaded.  

  • Where  there  are  Android  and  iOS  versions  of  the  same  App  we  link  these  and  they  queue  together.  We  review  the  next  highest  downloaded  App  in  the  queue,  category  by  category,  on  a  cyclical  basis  to  ensure  that  we  cover  the  full  breadth  of  solutions  available.

  • We  do  offer  an  expedited  review  process  for  Apps  that  are  unlikely  to  reach  the  top  of  the  queue  in  their  category  area  for  some  time  -  this  is  particularly  the  case  in  popular  areas  such  as  mental  health  Apps,  Diabetes,  Asthma,  COPD,  Sleep  etc  -  and  this  enables  newer  Apps  to  gain  an  ORCHA  score  and  presence  on  our  platforms  without  having  to  wait  for  increased  user  downloads  or  the  review  team  to  move  through  the  queue  sufficiently  to  pick  them  up. 

There are a huge array of different types of health and care Apps available with an equally wide array of functionality and sophistication. At ORCHA we believe that just because an App offers more functionality it doesn’t mean it is automatically better than a functionally simple App. Apps that for example simply provide information and guidance – similar to health ‘leaflets’ – can be very useful in certain circumstances and this isn’t impacted by their relative functional simplicity.

Apps in this area are also focused on a wide array of areas. Some are clearly health focused and within that are often targeting specific conditions or diseases, others however are more general and many are actually focused on wellbeing rather than health. A focus on wellbeing would include areas such as exercise and fitness and diet and these Apps are really important and offer really valuable support in the maintenance or improvement of overall wellbeing which is crucial for overall health.

  • Against this very varied backdrop, having a one size review process does not work and it is important that the review itself is responsive to the type (in terms of focus and functionality) of the App in question.
  • It is for this reason that we developed the ORCHA App Classification system which categorises Apps in one of 5 Levels (0-4) based on their area of focus and their functional capabilities. The more ‘health’ focussed and functionally rich an App is the higher its Level and the more areas of investigation are enabled in relation to it.
  • Very simple wellbeing focused Apps (typically L0 or L1) are not for example assessed based on their clinical assurance because they are not really delivering a clinical solution. Level 4 Apps on the other hand are at the top end in terms of focus and functionality and are often required to establish compliance with other regulatory environments such as medical device regs or the equivalent in other jurisdictions.  

The Orcha Levels are as follows:

Level 0 - Simple Wellbeing These apps are designed to support general wellbeing and have limited feature sets and don’t collect any data. Because they are not health focussed and do not collect data we only assess their compliance in the User Experience domain.
Level  1 - Advanced Wellbeing These apps are focussed on general wellbeing but they can collect data and they are likely to have a number of more advanced features. Because they are not health focussed we only assess their compliance in the Data and Security and User Experience domains
Level 2 - General Health These apps are focussed on general health. They may collect data and they may have a number of more advanced features. Where they collect data we assess their data use policies and compliance with relevant standards. Because they are health focussed we also assess their compliance in the Clinical Effectiveness as well as the User Experience domains.
Level 3 - Condition Management These apps can be focussed on general health or supporting specific health conditions. They may collect data and they may have a number of more advanced features. Where they collect data we assess their data use policies and compliance with relevant standards. Because they are health focussed we also assess their compliance in the Clinical Effectiveness as well as the User Experience domains.
Level 4 - Regulated These Apps can be focussed on general health or specific conditions and contain advanced and complex features that are subject to formal regulation. Where they collect data we assess their data use policies and compliance with relevant standards. Because they are health focussed we also assess their compliance in the Clinical Effectiveness as well as the User Experience domains.

As part of our evaluation of an Apps Level, we also capture all of the Apps key functions and features. We have over 14 features that we regularly check for and we are constantly updating this as App develop new features and functions. The Functional assessment also dynamically changes the lines of enquiry that our Reviewers follow during the Review proper again to ensure that the assessment is as tailored to the type of App as possible.

The functional capabilities all become filterable search elements in the myriad ORCHA App Finders, allowing all users to tailor their searches appropriately to find Apps that actually do the things that they want support around.

 
General Information - L0 The App provides general information or guidance
Alerts and Notifications - L0 The App provides alerts and notifications relevant to its area of focus
 
Social Support Networks - L1 The App has its own or provides access to social networks relevant to its area of focus
Wellbeing Tracking - manual or automatic – L1 The App allows you to record relevant wellbeing information either manually or automatically using connected Apps or devices
Goal setting and gamification – L1 The App allows you to set health and wellbeing related goals and may support games and challenges around achieving that
Environmental Data – L1 The App provides information about air quality, pollen levels and releated data.
 
Service Signposting - L2 The App provides links and suggestions for local or national services that are relevant to its focus area
 
Health Tracking - manual or automatic - L2 The App allows you to record relevant health information either manually or automatically using connected Apps or devices
Data Sharing – L2 The App allows you to share information in the App with others or other Apps/Systems
Carer Support – L2 The App provides features that help those caring for others 
Online Appointments - L2 The App allows you to make appointments with health and care professionals using online booking
 
Personal Health Record - L3 The App allows you to create a personal health record
 
Remote Clinical Monitoring - L3 The App allows the remote monitoring of certain health data by health and care professionals
Online Prescriptions - L4 The App allows you to order and manage prescriptions online
 
Online Consultation - L4 The App supports online consultations with health and care professionals
 
Treatment Support - L4 The App provides support in the management of specific conditions and the related treatments
Automated Guidance - L4 The App uses the data it has to provide automated advice and guidance about your health

We look at an Apps compliance with standards, guidance and best practice in three distinct areas or domains. These are Data and Security, Clinical Assurance and User Experience. Each of these Review Areas has been designed by relevant experts and consists of a series of objective (Yes/No) questions which should be capable of being answered by our Reviewers from information in the App, on the relevant App Store or on a supporting website. If our Reviewers cannot find evidence to support an answer from these sources they will assume that the App is not compliant with or capable of satisfying the relevant requirement.

There are often cases where an App is in fact capable of satisfying particular requirements but that this is not made clear in any obvious publicly available place. In these circumstances Users are left with uncertainty as to the real position and our view is that in this circumstance they should proceed with caution.

Data Security Data Privacy What do we look for? - This Review Domain looks at what information an App collects from you, what it does with that information and how secure is its handling of that data. For some Apps this is only a minor issue as they don’t gather much information. Other Apps can gather lots of very personal and sensitive information and for these it is important to know how they go about handling this.
Clinical Assurance Clinical Assurance This review area looks at what evidence there is that there is a suitably qualified professional or organisation behind the App or that it has been endorsed, accredited or underwritten by such an individual or organisation. It also assesses what evidence there is around user testing and the effectiveness of the App in terms of claimed health benefits. The higher the Level of the App and the more sophisticated its functions, the more crucial this becomes.
User Experience User Experience This Review Area looks at how an App has been designed to support the overall user experience. This includes its availability on both primary platforms, how customisable the App is, how well it caters for end users with different capabilities and needs – such as visual or other impairments – how content is managed, how well supported the App is and what it costs. This area also looks at overall User Reviewscores from both platforms

This  analysis  results  in  an  overall  ORCHA  score  which  is  built  up  from  the  answers  to  each  of  the  questions  in  the  three  Review  Domains.  Some  questions  earn  positive  points  and  some  earn  negative  points.  The  ORCHA  Score  aims  to  deliver  ameritocratic  evaluation  with  all  Apps  being  treated  equally  and  fairly  irrespective  of  their  current  popularity  or  the  financial  position  of  their  Developers. 

Any  score  below  65%  would  indicate  that  an  App  has  some  issues  that  users  should  investigate  further  prior  to  using  this  App.  Scores  below  45%  indicate  that  an  App  has  considerable  issues  or  challenges  and  in  its  current  form  is  potentially  unhelpful  or  unsafe. 

The  final  stage  of  the  process  is  Developer  notification  and  publication  stage.  When  the  review  is  complete,  we  send  a  notification  to  the  relevant  developer/publisher  giving  them  an  opportunity  to  preview  the  Review  ahead  of  its  publication.  This  gives  them  an  opportunity  to  highlight  any  obvious  errors  or  issues  before  we  release  the  Review  onto  all  our  platforms.  Once  the  notification  period  has  expired,  we  publish  the  Review  on  all  our  platforms. 

All  our  reviews  will  remain  valid  until  a  new  version  of  the  App  is  produced.  If  a  new  version  is  not  produced  within  18  months  of  the  current  version,  we  mark  the  relating  to  the  App  as  'Out  of  Date'  and  the  ORCHA  App  Score  will  start  to  degrade  at  the  rate  of  5%  per  month. 

If  the  Developer  implements  a  new  version  of  this  App  we  will  automatically  detect  this  via  the  relevant  App  Stores  and  we  will  mark  the  current  review  as  being  related  to  an  old  version  of  the  App  on  all  our  platforms.  The  new  version  of  your  App  will  go  back  into  the  queue  for  a  Re-Review  and  we  will  in  time  undertake  this.