Commenting on the launch of the NHS Apps Library, Chair of the national AHSN Network Dr Liz Mear said:

‘This is great news and we welcome this impressive library of apps that will directly benefit patients and clinicians.

‘This is about taking the latest technology and insights and then putting them to good use in the healthcare system to streamline health services and empower patients to take more control over their own care. Digital innovation in health and care that is assessed and approved like the apps in this library is a valuable tool to save the NHS money and more importantly improve outcomes for patients.

‘England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) have a track record matching products to challenges and speeding up the spread and adoption of health and care innovations in the NHS. AHSNs have also played a pivotal role in supporting many of the innovators who now have tried and tested apps in the library.’

The NHS Apps Library contains over 40 apps that help people manage a wide range of conditions including diabetes and cancer, and innovations that help minimise the impact of these conditions on their life through ordering repeat medicines via smartphones and having them delivered to their home. Several of the apps in the library have been developed by Public Health England to encourage healthy behaviours 20% such as being more active and aware of sugar contents. Of the remainder, 50% (17 out of 35) have benefitted from support from their local AHSN.

The NHS Digital Apps Library is here

Case study: ChatHealth

ChatHealth is one of the apps featured in the NHS Apps Library, and can be found on the AHSN Atlas. East Midlands AHSN has been supporting ChatHealth since it won an innovation award in 2014, with activities such as intellectual property, marketing and communications and senior commercial guidance.

ChatHealth provides teens with confidential and timely access to healthcare. It is a safe and secure text messaging service that helps young people get in touch with healthcare professionals. First developed by school nurses at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, ChatHealth supports greater efficiencies within adolescent community nursing teams, with individual nurses able to provide for a greater number of service users. It is cost effective and uses technology young people are familiar with, providing confidential and timely access to healthcare. Young people do not need to wait for a nurse visit at school and the service is completely anonymous meaning it reaches out to often seldom heard groups.

Benefits of this include:

  • Increased service reach/access – delivering 100 additional contacts every month
  • Overcomes the stigma of face-to-face access for teens
  • Reaches more underserved adolescents – 1/5 male users compared to 1/10 in clinics
  • Reaches more first time users across broader range of enquiries.

In just over two years it has grown from 65,000 users in Leicestershire and Rutland and is now available to around a million people across the entire country. The ChatHealth platform is predominantly used by adolescent health teams. The majority of enquiries are in relation to emotional and mental health and wellbeing, including self-harming and low mood – some of these kinds of contacts can be significant from the point of view of safeguarding vulnerable young people. The next most regular type of enquiry relates to sexual health. Other types of health teams are now beginning to adopt the platform which is changing the nature of the enquiries received. For example, where it is being adopted by health visiting teams, the enquiries received are about child health and development. ChatHealth also was a winner of the NHS Innovation Challenge in 2015 alongside Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust.

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