This month’s mobile apps round up features news that design company Sigma has partnered with app evaluation company ORCHA and a personalised breast cancer support app has launched in the UK.

Design company Sigma partners with ORCHA

Designed and development company Sigma has partnered with app evaluation company ORCHA to help developers improve the usability and accessibility of their health apps.

The partnership aims to make the burgeoning health app ecosystem more successful, as inclusivity and accessibility are key criteria for the health and care industry.

It will develop a framework of user research, co-design, testing and training to help vendors and developers in digital health create the most user-friendly and inclusive applications possible.

It is hoped that more apps will build in usability and accessibility from the start, ensuring that both the content and the functionality of health apps is perceivable, usable and well-understood by all users, including those with impaired vision, hearing loss or deafness, motor difficulties or neurodivergent conditions.

Hilary Stephenson, managing director at Sigma, said: “We have been increasing our work and campaigning in the field of tech accessibility, particularly in health and life science research.

“Working with ORCHA gives us the opportunity to reach more people, to help raise awareness of inclusive design and start to build a community of practice that values accessibility and user experience.”

Personalised breast cancer support app launches in the UK

A personalised breast cancer support app, OWise, has launched in the UK.

The app aims to help patients regain control of their lives from the first day of diagnosis by providing patients with valuable, personalised insights about their day-to-day wellbeing, allowing for better discussions with their doctor and enabling them to make more informed decisions about their treatment.

All patient information such as appointments, prescriptions, and doctor’s notes are securely and conveniently stored in one place, helping patients track and review precisely how they’re feeling.

Dr Peter Hall, consultant medical oncologist at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre, said: “Digital technologies like OWise offer real potential to improve a cancer patient’s experience. Being able to see a timeline that chart’s a patient’s symptoms from their own perspective is fantastic.

“It definitely improves our ability to understand how cancer and its treatment are affecting a patient.”

The app has been trialled by more than 10,000 users, accredited by NHS Digital and listed in the NHS Apps Library. It was the first oncology app to be used as a case study by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

OWise Founder Dr Anne Bruinvels, said: “We’re in the midst of a much-needed transformation of healthcare, where new technology and data science are used to radically improve patient care.

“We are proud to have developed a mobile app platform that is driven by patients, with evidence-based features demonstrated to improve cancer patients’ lives while enabling them to share their data with trusted individuals.”

The app is available to download in the App Store and Google Play.

Sleep improvement app may help ease depression, study finds

A study into the use of sleep improvement app, Sleepio, has found it may improve the symptoms of depression.

Researchers found the app improved insomnia symptoms and also depressive symptoms in patients with insomnia.

Further analysis revealed a significant improvement in the symptoms of depression due to improvements in sleep patterns.

Dr Alasdair Henry, lead researcher and research manager at Big Health, which runs Sleepio, said: “Our study suggests that evidence-based digital therapeutics for sleep could be a powerful way to help millions of people not just sleep better, but also improve their depressive symptoms.

Professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford, Daniel Freeman, added: “Depressive symptoms can be associated with significant stigma, which can prevent people from seeking help. These results show that addressing sleep may be an effective option for improving depressive symptoms, potentially providing a less stigmatized route to addressing broader mental health.

“Digital programmes like Sleepio overcome many of the barriers associated with accessing other forms of evidence-based care and it certainly increases people’s options.

“It could help in filling the enormous gap that currently exists in access to mental health care around the globe, and is particularly urgent during the current pandemic, when even access to routine care is disrupted.”

New exercise app helps those with chronic conditions

New exercise app EXi, formally iPrescribe Exercise, is a medically endorsed and evidence-based health app which produces personalised exercise programmes for the management or prevention of multiple chronic diseases.

Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, osteoarthritis, or heart disease are often linked with a sedentary lifestyle.

The EXi app has been created by health professionals to guide users through a personalised 12-week physical activity programme that is individually tailored to their specific conditions and health goals.

The app is backed by the NHS, Sport England and ukactive.

Carron Manning, co-founder of EXi, said: “Exercise to help maintain overall health is more important than ever. Unfortunately, it is not made easy for people with a chronic condition who need specialist help and the confidence to begin exercising safely.

“Our own clinical experience and research in this field has led us to team up with health organisations such as the NHS and Sport England to provide a vital tool, allowing anyone to exercise with total peace of mind.

“We hope it is the first step for many to help combat inactivity and provide support for those who need it most.”

The app is free to download from the App Store and Google Play.