“We need to understand how people interact with the tools available to them.”
The NHS wants to accelerate the number of applications being produced for its Apps Library, in order to do this they have released a digital assessment portal for developers.
The NHS Digital Apps Library was launched in April of 2017, with the intention of making digital health tools and services available to the public. Currently there are over 70 applications listed in the library, covering health issues such as mental health, diabetes management and fitness.
The digital assessment portal was launched in a public beta. It is designed to act as an online self-service tool for developers allowing approved assessors to access applications in early development to ensure that they are in line with NHS standards. Applications must be clinically safe, technically stable, interoperable and strictly adhered to data protection guidelines.
Ian Phoenix, Director of Citizen Technology at NHS Digital commented in a release that there is: “No surprise that there is high demand among developers to have their apps considered for inclusion and the launch of this digital portal should help accelerate that process to give patients the options of more apps, improving their ability to look after their own health and wellbeing.”
“This is about streamlining the process, but apps will still need to meet the same rigorous NHS standards to pass the assessment to appear on the library.”
NHS Digital Apps Library and Leaky Apps
Unfortunately applications that were hosted in the NHS Apps Library have fallen afoul of data regulations standards before. In 2015 the NHS removed a number of applications from the Health Apps Library due to concerns that they were leaking sensitive user data.
Out of the 79 applications in question 70 were found to be sending personal data back to associated online service, while 23 were found to be sending data in an unencrypted format. Four applications were sending out not just user identifying information, but were sending patient medical data, all in an unencrypted manner.
The NHS reacted to the data leaks by pulling the worst offending applications and introducing robust digital standards for developers.
Juliet Bauer, Director of Digital Experience at NHS England wrote in a blog post on the launch of NHS Digital Apps Library that: “Our work is iterative and based on user needs. We need to understand how people interact with the tools available to them; what they find complicated; or what they are willing to use and gain benefit from. It’s important that we do this right and so everything we have launched today is being done to allow a thorough live testing period and we will be gathering feedback from users through an inbuilt capability on each of the platforms.”
“We want people to use digital technology to support their healthcare, but we must understand how people use our tools, whether barriers of use exist and what more is required to connect people to their health and care digitally.”