The NHS Commissioning Board, the new body set up to run the NHS in England, has launched a library of NHS-approved mobile apps to help people better manage their health.
The new Health Apps Library, which launched this week, currently has around 70 apps that were developed by a variety of organisations and then reviewed by the NHS to ensure they are clinically safe.
According to Tim Kelsey (pictured), national director for patients and information at the NHS Commissioning Board, there are about 13,000 apps in wider circulation which claim to give various forms of medical advice. “The library is a way of giving an NHS stamp of approval to apps so users know they are safe,” he says.
Kelsey gave two examples of the kind of apps that might be available in the store. One is an app that helps patients living with a long-term condition, and the other gives people access to their health records and to share care plans online.
However, the apps will not necessarily be free, the commissioning board confirmed in response to an enquiry from Mobile World Live, despite being termed a library rather than a store, making it a potential source of revenue for the NHS.
In addition to the initial 70 apps, the library will shortly contain ten new apps designed to help people with tasks including getting advice on a specific condition, booking repeat prescriptions, getting hold of test results and locating the most appropriate NHS service.
These new apps were not commissioned by the NHS although it did put out a call to developers with new apps to submit.
Offering a stamp of approval for apps from a trusted body has a growing level of support in mobile health. For instance, Happtique, a US health app store, has championed app certification in the US market, although its strategy is designed to reassure both physicians and users about apps. This new NHS initiative is focused just on users.
The first version of the NHS library was launched this week at the NHS Innovation Expo conference.
At the same event, Creative England, a national agency that invests in digital media, launched a £250,000 investment fund to support app development, in collaboration with the NHS Commissioning Board.
In April, Creative England will invite small- and medium-sized enterprises to apply for funds if they are interested in developing apps for patients or the wider public.
The aim of the competition is to support five new healthcare apps, funded 50 per cent by the new fund and 50 per cent by the successful small businesses. Creative England will manage the call process, legal agreements and contract with the winners. The backing will be in the form of revenue sharing agreements between the winner and Creative England.