App evaluation company ORCHA has launched a Covid-19 formulary to signpost healthcare professionals and consumers to clinically validated apps.

Since the beginning of March 2020, when the virus began to spread in the UK, more than 500 health apps have been updated to contain coronavirus-related keywords in their description, the company said.

The apps are being used for health advice, often sharing sensitive information, but not all apps can be trusted.

ORCHA has launched the free formulary as a resource for people to access trusted apps. It comprises reviews of health apps across a range of conditions relevant to the Covid-19 pandemic, including reviews of Covid-19 apps launched to date.

Brian Donnelly, chief executive, CECOPS CIC, an independent technology standards body, said: “In the current Covid-19 crisis, finding the most effective health apps that meet trusted standards is so important.

“People need assurance when selecting apps. CECOPS fully supports the timely initiative by ORCHA to deliver a site where technologies that uphold standards can be found. This is a tremendous piece of work.”

ORCHA has verified the accuracy, security and risk associated with the apps before adding them to the library.

Any app offering special pricing or approaches at this time, if it is particularly useful in supporting the Covid-19 response, or if there are any implementation approaches to support the Covid-19 challenge, is given a specific ‘Covid-19’ label in the formulary.

Alyson Scurfield, chief executive of TEC Services Association, said: “Technology can transform the lives of vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic. In these unprecedented times there has never been a more important moment for us, as professionals and the public, to engage with digital solutions, to keep us all safe and well and achieve our health and wellbeing outcomes.”

It comes as NHS staff have been granted free access to a number of mental health apps to support their wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

The apps, which include platforms to proactively improve mental health as well as sleep improvement programmes, will be freely available until December 2020.

The ORCHA Covid-19 health app formulary can be found here.