The United Kingdom’s National Health Service announced this week the launch of both the NHS Digital Apps Library and a Mobile Health space for developers.
The NHS was one of the early pioneers among healthcare providers in curation of health apps for patients. Their first Health Apps library, however, was plagued by issues around vetting processes and data security. This week, they announced the launch of the latest iteration of that work – the Digital Apps Library.
According to the NHS, this library will include health apps for a variety of chronic diseases. Included apps will be listed as either “being tested” or “NHS Approved,” the latter being a particularly bold statement given the history of others in certification programs.
It’s not entirely clear how a health app becomes NHS approved but, according to the NHS, the criteria include an evidence base supporting impact on outcomes, clinical/information safety, user experience, and effectiveness. Health apps being tested are chosen based on clinical needs and data on things like use, safety, and effectiveness is collected.
In parallel, the NHS has launched a developer platform that includes a wide range of resources for health app developers including testing tools, information on available APIs, and a self-assessment questionnaire. While we have a patchwork of resources in the US focused on areas like HIPAA or integration with specific EMRs, this resource appears to be far more comprehensive.
The Digital Apps library is currently listed as being in beta but has 25 apps included, including health apps for smoking cessation, COPD, diabetes, and general lifestyle modification.
Given their history, the NHS is surely aware of the risks and challenges in trying to curate digital health products. That they went back to the drawing board and appear to have come back with something more organized, more rigorous, and more comprehensive though highlights the potential value these tools have to offer.