Sixty-eight percent of people agree that digital health apps should be used within the NHS, according to the third annual survey into public attitudes on health apps in the UK by the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA).

In line with this, 60% more GPs have recommended digital health apps to their patients this year, in comparison to last year. London GPs were revealed to recommend more health apps than any other region.

In addition, nearly half (47%) of all those surveyed said they were already using a health app.

But while digital technology is being far more widely embraced by both those in the medical profession and patients, the survey did also reveal some concerning statistics.

Amongst those who selected a health app for themselves, 0% checked its clinical credentials prior to using it. Plus just 28% gave the app’s privacy policy careful consideration before agreeing to it.

Instead, 30% of those people checked the consumer reviews on app stores, believing that to give them adequate protection.

Dr Simon Leigh, ORCHA’s research director, said: “That’s the equivalent of buying a random box of pills with no MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) approval and swallowing a handful of them, hoping for the best.

“We’ve proven through academic studies that good consumer reviews are not a safe indicator of the quality of the app.

“In fact, as a rule, the higher starred the consumer reviews, the less compliant the apps are in terms of the required standards and accreditations. Consumers are putting far too much faith in anecdotal observations by others.”

Think SAFE

To help ensure that consumers are able to safely select digital apps to help support their health and wellbeing, ORCHA is launching a consumer campaign. The campaign will give a simple memory jog before they download an app.

The Think SAFE campaign helps to remind the public of the following guidelines before they download an app:

SECURE – how secure is the app and does it have a clear privacy policy

ASK – have I asked a healthcare professional about this app choice?

FIND – where did I find this app?

EVIDENCE – does the app demonstrate clear evidence it was developed by someone with medical expertise.

Founding CEO of ORCHA, Liz Ashall-Payne, said: “We’re so pleased to see this impressive spike in the number of GPs making recommendations.

“But we can’t ignore the fact that the public need some guidance on how to make good choices themselves. There are some fantastic digital tools now available, but all the products we use must be scrutinised in exactly the same way as medicines.”

In March this year, ORCHA created the country’s first Digital Health Formulary, allowing healthcare professionals to safely prescribe more complex apps for their patients. The single source solution can be integrated into existing patient record systems making the process simple.