General Practice safely unlocks the power of health apps


General Practice safely unlocks the power of health apps

Wingate Medical Centre is a busy general practice looking after more than 12,000 people across Kirby and East Fazakerley.  Faced with a rise in conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart conditions and mental health, and an ageing population with more complex cases, demand for its services continues to grow.

With limited resource, the practice looks for marginal gains, identifying small incremental improvements in its practice, which together provide significant advances.

The practice identified health apps as a branch of treatment that can bring improvements. The right apps, when integrated into practice correctly, can make a big difference.

Some of the centre’s GPs already recommended apps to their patients, but this required the GP to research and test apps.  It also relied on the patient remembering the recommended app, bringing risk that the patient may accidentally download the wrong app.

To unlock the benefit apps offer and safely integrate them into its practice, Wingate Medical Centre adopted the ORCHA platform, part of NHS England’s National Innovation Accelerator Programme.  Dr Chris Mimnagh explains:

“When we saw the ORCHA platform it was a no brainer for us.  It provides us with exactly what we need – a website that helps us to find the best apps to meet a patient’s needs, and a tool to deliver the app directly to the patient.

“Previously relying on our own GPs to review apps relied on an anecdotal approach.  With ORCHA, we know that each app has been evaluated against more than 130 criteria, including those set out by regulatory bodies.

“With thousands of health apps available, we are not best placed to know which ones to test. We could waste time looking at a scam app developed by a 14 year old from their bedroom.  But as ORCHA continuously scans the market and tests more apps than anyone else, it cuts through this noise.

“Our old method of showing a patient an app also brought risk.  It was the equivalent of presenting a patient with a packet of pills, asking them to remember it and then find it in the pharmacy. With ORCHA, each an app recommendation is delivered directly to a patient’s phone, so they can download it with a click of a button.”

Through the ORCHA platform, the team has discovered apps that make a huge difference.  For example Headspace enables patients with mental health issues to access simple yet effective CBT whilst they wait to see a therapist.   Migraine Buddy allows patients to keep detailed reports about their migraine, helping the team to have more meaningful discussions, better pinpointing potential triggers and assessing the effectiveness of prescribed medication.

Concluding about ORCHA, Dr Mimnagh says:

“We aim to treat patients in the right place at the right time.  ORCHA is helping us to deliver this. In order to see our urgent patients within a four hour window, we help a third of our patients over the phone. We recommend an app to many of these, which bolsters the care advice or prescription given.  We also recommend apps to the third of patients who see us with routine matters. The intelligence or value add that an app brings, particularly helps people with long term problems.

“I think any GP should review the ORCHA platform for their practice.  As phones get smarter, the apps bring more and more benefit to a GP. ORCHA can help you navigate the market and safely embrace this potential.”