A collaboration between mHabitat and CAST (Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology) to undertake a market research for a study on the potential of digitally enabled self-care for people with multiple long term conditions.

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mHabitat partnered with CAST (Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology) to do market research for a study on the potential of digitally enabled self-care for people with multiple long term conditions, funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. In order to find and summarize currently available digital tools for the specified conditions of interest as well as general lifestyle apps, we designed and tested a new protocol. We gathered information about each product, including where possible about their design, safety and effectiveness,  and created a taxonomy for digital tool functions. In addition to this database, we also provided a report with overall reflections and recommendations.

Learning Points

ORCHA and the NHS apps library provide free expert reviews and were the most useful sources for finding trusted and relevant UK-based apps. The quality of apps on commercial app stores is hard to predict given the limited information provided.

ORCHA scores were classed as ‘average’ for the majority of apps. There was little consistency between number of downloads, user rating and ORCHA quality score. Only 2 apps cited peer-reviewed evidence for their safety and effectiveness, but one of these was an ongoing trial and the other had only been tested in health volunteers. This echoes our experience that most apps cannot be recommended without reservations.

In addition to an educational component, which was present in most apps, the most popular functions were self and/or automatic monitoring, some form of active therapy (for example, specific coping strategies) and peer support. There was a gap in provision of tools that support people with multiple long term conditions to engage with other support mechanisms (such as clinicians, coaches, appointments). Most apps are primarily aimed at, and used by, the patient, except in the dementia field where the main target is the carer/family member.

In the absence of high quality condition specific apps, it may be worth turning to apps that handle a specific symptom/component (for example, pill reminders and step counters), support lifestyle changes (such as diet and smoking) or offer general support (for example, peer or carer support). Ideally, this ‘cocktail of apps’ should be tailored to the patient’s specific circumstances.

Image credit Khoa Nguyen

Pete Circle

Pete Nuckley

Deputy Director (Design and Delivery)

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mHabitat supported Sirona, a Bristol based community interest company providing NHS and local authority services, to develop an enabling digital strategy. In addition to co-designing the strategy with people accessing and providing services, we supported Sirona to develop a sustainable model for digital innovation.

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