Web-based internet searches for digital health products in the United Kingdom before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a time-series analysis using app libraries from ORCHA

Research

Web-based internet searches for digital health products in the United Kingdom before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a time-series analysis using app libraries from the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA)

Published in: BMJ Open

The traditional model of healthcare delivery is based on providing medical services through systems of hospitals, primary care facilities and outpatient clinics. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly disrupted the routine delivery of physical healthcare, resulting in the widespread deferral of elective, preventive and outpatient appointments by health authorities. Estimates suggest that as many as 40% of appointments have been cancelled or postponed by patients, as part of efforts to avoid public spaces as much as possible. In the USA, ambulatory care visits fell by 60% in the early phase of the pandemic, while in the UK alone, an estimated 1.5 million elective admissions and 2.6 million outpatient attendances were forgone as a result of COVID-19.

We explored if consumer interest in digital health products (DHPs) changed following the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures that ensued. We identified all web-based internet searches for DHPs in the UK using ORCHA app libraries, split over two periods, pre-COVID-19 lockdown (January 2019–23 March 2020) and post-COVID-19 lockdown (24 March 2020–31 December 2020).

There were 126 640 searches for DHPs over the study period. Searches for DHPs increased by 343% from 2446 per month prior to COVID-19 lockdown measures being introduced to 8996 per month in the period following the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. In total, 23/25 (92%) of condition areas experienced a significant increase in searches for DHPs, with the greatest increases occurring in the first 2 months following lockdown.

Musculoskeletal conditions (2.036%), allergy (1.253%) and healthy living DHPs (1.051%) experienced the greatest increases in searches compared with pre-lockdown. Increased search volumes for DHPs were sustained in the 9 months following the introduction of lockdown measures, with 21/25 (84%) of condition areas experiencing monthly search volumes at least 50% greater than pre-lockdown levels.

Our findings suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly disrupted the routine delivery of healthcare, making face-to-face interaction difficult, and contributing to unmet clinical needs. This study has demonstrated significant increases in internet searches for DHPs by members of the UK population since COVID-19, signifying an increased interest in this potential therapeutic medium. Future research should clarify whether this increased interest has resulted in increased acceptance and utilisation of these technologies also.

 

Read the full research piece here: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/10/e053891

About ORCHA

Founded by NHS clinicians, ORCHA is the world’s leading digital health evaluation and distribution organisation. We provide services to national health bodies across three continents, including the NHS in 50% of UK regions, delivering national accreditation frameworks, bespoke Digital Health Libraries, and professional recommendation tools, specific to the needs of our clients. ORCHA’s unique Review Engine assesses digital health solutions against more than 350 measures across Clinical/Professional Assurance, Data u0026amp; Privacy, and Usability u0026amp; Accessibility, plus additional criteria depending on needs.

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BMJ Open study shows significant & sustained interest in digital health products throughout lockdown

Research

Web-based internet searches for digital health products in the United Kingdom before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a time-series analysis using app libraries from the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA)

“When we’re questioning whether GPs should revert to face-to-face appointments, we should reflect on the massive success of tele-health during COVID-19.”

Research scientists led by Simon Leigh, head of research at ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Health and Care Applications), have examined web-based internet searches for digital health products before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This first-of-its-kind public health paper, just published by BMJ Open, shows beyond doubt that the pressures put on the routine delivery of healthcare during the pandemic lead to ‘significant increases’ in searches for digital health products.

Examining two years of collated data (from January 2019 to December 2020), the team found that:

  • Searches for digital health products increased by 343% following the first lockdown
  • Searches for MSK and physiotherapy products increased by 2036% and those for allergy and fitness/diet increased by 1253% and 1051% respectively
  • 92% of medical condition areas saw an increase in searches

Commenting on the paper, Simon Leigh said: “We set out to explore whether demand for digital health products changed following the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures… it did!  And these increases weren’t a flash in the pan at the start of lockdown – they were sustained in the nine months following the first lockdown, with 84% of condition areas still experiencing demand at least 50% greater than pre-lockdown levels.

“When we’re questioning whether GPs should revert to face-to-face appointments, perhaps we should reflect on the massive success of tele-health during COVID-19. Whilst a video or telephone call won’t work for everyone, for many patients it works brilliantly. This could be the start of increased acceptance of a whole new generation of medical technology and we should be encouraging GPs to use a range of approaches, including digital health products, to match the needs of patients and provide the choice they are wanting.”

The full paper, Web-based internet searches for digital health products in the United Kingdom before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a time-series analysis using app libraries from the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA), is available for free here or by clicking the PDF download icon below.

About ORCHA

Founded by NHS clinicians, ORCHA is the world’s leading digital health evaluation and distribution organisation. We provide services to national health bodies across three continents, including the NHS in 50% of UK regions, delivering national accreditation frameworks, bespoke Digital Health Libraries, and professional recommendation tools, specific to the needs of our clients. ORCHA’s unique Review Engine assesses digital health solutions against more than 350 measures across Clinical/Professional Assurance, Data u0026amp; Privacy, and Usability u0026amp; Accessibility, plus additional criteria depending on needs.

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Which digital for mental health recovery action plans?

Research

Web-based internet searches for digital health products in the United Kingdom before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a time-series analysis using app libraries from the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA)

With mounting evidence that mental health problems have become even more prevalent since the pandemic, in the UK, the government has developed a Mental Health Recovery Action plan. Backed by £500 million, it aims to respond to escalating mental health issues, specifically targeting groups which have been most impacted including those with severe mental illness, young people, and frontline staff.

During lockdown, services turned to digital, switching from in-person help to a range of digital services, such as patient-to-clinician platforms, digitally-enabled treatments, mental health and wellbeing apps, chatbots and social support networks.

As services deliver against the mental health recovery action plan and COVID-19 restrictions lift, we ask what is the role for digital now?

Click on the PDF icon below to download our report, and discover:

  • Which patients prefer online support, advice and counselling?
  • Search volumes across mental health categories, including a 2483% rise for mindfulness apps.
  • Why do only 32% of digital health for mental health meet quality thresholds? In which areas does this figure drop even further?
  • 5 examples of mental health apps that meet standards.
  • What should mental health recovery action plans include?

If you are experiencing any issues with downloading the report, or want to know more, please get in touch with us at hello@orcha.co.uk or on +44 (0) 1925 606542

About ORCHA

Founded by NHS clinicians, ORCHA is the world’s leading digital health evaluation and distribution organisation. We provide services to national health bodies across three continents, including the NHS in 50% of UK regions, delivering national accreditation frameworks, bespoke Digital Health Libraries, and professional recommendation tools, specific to the needs of our clients. ORCHA’s unique Review Engine assesses digital health solutions against more than 350 measures across Clinical/Professional Assurance, Data u0026amp; Privacy, and Usability u0026amp; Accessibility, plus additional criteria depending on needs.

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Digital health for cancer services: Report

Research

Web-based internet searches for digital health products in the United Kingdom before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a time-series analysis using app libraries from the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA)

A reported 40,000 fewer people started cancer treatment in 2020 due to COVID-19. As a result, for years to come, cancer services will need to diagnose and treat substantially more people, with many requiring urgent care.

Throughout the pandemic NHS teams adopted new technologies to ensure as many patients as possible could get the care they need. Digital health offers a wealth of features such as patient reported outcome collection, remote monitoring and self-management in real time. There is growing evidence of the benefit to integrating digital into routine supportive care in oncology practice to provide improved patient-centered care. So to extend support again now, digital health should continue to be part of the solution.

ORCHA helps NHS services and leading cancer charities to make informed decisions on digital health, ensuring vital standards are met.

Click on the PDF icon below to download the Digital Health for Cancer Services Report, and discover:

  • How is digital being used in oncology now?
  • Why do only 24.7% of digital health for cancer meet quality thresholds?
  • 5 of ORCHA’s 50 listed health apps for cancer
  • What’s next?

If you are experiencing any issues with downloading the report, or want to know more, please get in touch with us at hello@orcha.co.uk or on +44 (0) 1925 606542

About ORCHA

Founded by NHS clinicians, ORCHA is the world’s leading digital health evaluation and distribution organisation. We provide services to national health bodies across three continents, including the NHS in 50% of UK regions, delivering national accreditation frameworks, bespoke Digital Health Libraries, and professional recommendation tools, specific to the needs of our clients. ORCHA’s unique Review Engine assesses digital health solutions against more than 350 measures across Clinical/Professional Assurance, Data u0026amp; Privacy, and Usability u0026amp; Accessibility, plus additional criteria depending on needs.

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