PRESS RELEASE: What do patients and carers need in health apps – but are not getting?

LOGOPRESS RELEASE: What do patients and carers need in health apps – but are not getting?

Contact details at end of announcement

Brussels, 23 June 2015 Despite the huge and obvious potential of health apps to support patient self-care and reduce the drain on healthcare systems – their use has yet to move into mainstream medicine and public health programmes aimed at disease prevention. The lack of user involvement is one of the major reasons why health apps have failed to deliver thus far: what do patients and carers need in health apps – but are not getting? And how can developers respond and deliver better apps accordingly? These are the two key questions tackled in the latest analysis of the findings of a global survey and multi-stakeholder workshop, published today by PatientView, in conjunction with Health 2.0 and TICBioMed, co-ordinator of the EU-funded GET project.

The results, presented in a new white paper, What do patients and carers need in health apps – but are not getting?, analyse the views of 1,130 patient and carer groups worldwide. The needs and challenges raised were then discussed in a multi-stakeholder meeting held to help define concepts for new apps that address patient and carer unmet real needs.

Download the white paper here:

“How can a research process geared up for clinical trials taking a year be relevant for an app that is updated every three weeks?” 

Patients want to use health apps to help them understand and manage their medical condition and treatments (61%); to provide practical support, such as care planning (55%); and to be able to communicate with their doctor or nurse (45%), among other key needs – but most are still not able to do so. While many health app developers report that they are keen to include patient and clinical input into their development process, but have found it difficult to have meaningful access to users and understand their needs in order to translate them into better apps.

The survey and workshop (held in the latter half of 2014) are part of ongoing research by PatientView into user perspectives on health apps which will be used to devise a series of regularly reviewed and updated guidelines for developers. The first set will cover general health, wellness and disability apps and is due to be published later in 2015.  Guidance for medical app developers will be published in 2016.

Unmet needs in five therapy areas highlighted

The survey revealed unmet needs across many areas but five in particular predominated: cancer, diabetes, disability (focusing on pain relief and management), mental health and wellness.

CANCER: The key need identified was “an app that provides support in the management of my screening requirements and test results.” This should include functions to track symptoms, keep and organise test results and the ability to share them with all relevant healthcare professionals, book tests where needed, and monitor other key factors such as blood pressure, temperature, sleep, mood and appetite.

DIABETES: The priority for diabetes patients is for an “intuitive” app that calculates carb-to-insulin ratios, advises on next best steps and gives clear feedback on how proper maintenance improves patients’ health. This should include: monitoring and analysing how food intake and exercise affect blood sugar levels, enabling easy to enter data, and providing a secure messaging service with doctors/nurses for questions.

DISABILITY (PAIN MANAGEMENT): Patients affected by pain wanted an effective pain app diary that provides a support package for pain management, improving on what is already available. This should include trackers for daily activities (such as diet, exercise, mood, fatigue, sleep, medication intake) to help spot trends and triggers, and allow secure sharing of data and advice with and from healthcare professionals.

MENTAL HEALTH: The key unmet need identified was for an app that helps patients manage a personal mental health crisis, to include: lifestyle choices relevant to the particular condition combined with a symptom/wellness logger, that ensures that self-monitoring to help deal with problems as they arise, provides emergency contacts and helps carers provide support, as well as having options for online video contact with a mental health professional.

WELLNESS: There was a very broad spread of needs in this area but a common aim was to have an app that provides feedback on how treatment, care and lifestyle changes are impacting on an individual’s health and wellbeing. Functions should include reminders to support better lifestyle choices (such as drinking enough water, nutritional advice) combined with a symptom/ wellness logger, and allow networking with support groups to monitor progress.

10 key recommendations

According to Jorge Gonzalez, Managing Director of TICBioMed – an eHealth cluster headquartered in the Murcia region of Spain – one reason why this market has failings is that “more often than not health apps are developed in isolation from their intended users – patients and the public. Developers are sometimes motivated more by the cleverness of a technology or idea than improvements in health outcomes.”

Based on the findings of the global survey and the cross-stakeholder workshop, the white paper summarises the key recommendations needed to support better patient self-care and provide more sustainable models for app developers:

  1.  involve patients: establish a transparent, fair and sustainable way to involve patients, patient groups and carers in app development
  2.  address unmet needs: identify and address truly unmet patient and public needs, and switch the balance from information-giving and trackers to tools that help patients put this knowledge and data into action, enabling them to self-manage
  3.  set up a one-stop advice shop for developers: in one place, provide them with definitive, up-to-date guidance on key issues such as regulatory requirements, clinical approval methods, best practice in involving patients, and horizon-scanning on technological developments, issues and opportunities
  4.  share best practice: identify, develop and communicate models of best practice, for example in involving patients and carers in identifying unmet needs
  5.  gain “air time” for quality apps: identifying ways for developers of quality health apps to market and differentiate themselves from the many products available
  6. find the business model: identify sustainable business models for apps, and make this funding transparent to browsing consumers
  7. demonstrate clinical rigour: confirm and clarify the clinical approval requirements which apply to health apps
  8.  bring apps into the mainstream: integrate them into wider and “real-world” healthcare solutions, rather than remaining fragmentary “add-ons”
  9.  future-proof apps: make them sustainable and adaptable to future changes
  10. enable informed choices to be made by patients and carers about healthcare apps, for example by raising standards of digital/app/mhealth literacy, and gaining clinician input on recommending and prescribing apps.

In October 2015 PatientView/ together with its partners intends to kick off discussions to produce user guidelines for app developers to support the above challenges–following consultations with key stakeholders.

About PatientView : A UK-based research, publishing and consultancy group, PatientView has been collecting and analysing the perspectives of thousands of patients on their healthcare since 2000. It now has the capacity to reach out to 120,000 patient organisations worldwide, covering over 1,000 specialities. PatientView launched the website in November 2013 to provide an independent portal for patients, carers and health-conscious consumers to find apps that have been tried, tested and trusted by patient and health consumer groups.*: 450 apps with new apps regularly uploaded. Apps available in 50+ different languages, from Albanian to Welsh, which can be selected for through the website’s filtering system. Apps dealing with 150 different health specialties so there should be something for everyone: from exercise and diet apps through to disease-based apps for monitoring, tracking, providing information, providing support to manage symptoms, or even networking with family friends, carers or other people with a similar medical condition. Apps for five different platforms: Android, Apple, Blackberry, Nokia, Windows, each with weblinks to relevant app stores, which can be selected for though the website’s filtering system. App developers, funders and medical advisers are listed for each app to enhance transparency and its level of trustworthiness. Apps ranked by price, from lowest to highest or vice versa. Visitors to the site may leave comments about specific apps,though this functionality is moderated.

* derives no income from app developers or app downloads. is brought to you by PatientView Ltd, in partnership with: Digital Health and Care Alliance (DHACA) • European Connected Health Alliance (ECHA) • European Health Forum Gastein • Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) •GSK • Health 2.0 • Janssen • NHS Health Apps Library • Telefonica • TICBioMed

About TICBioMed

TICBioMed is a cooperative cluster of companies, universities, healthcare providers and public institutions that work together to foster technological innovation in healthcare (eHealth). The association participates in the European projects GET, READi for Health and FICHe, and is the organiser of the EU SME eHealth Competition.

About Health 2.0

Since 2007 Health 2.0 Conferences have been the leading showcase of the cutting-edge technologies transforming health and healthcare. Health 2.0 promotes, showcases and catalyses new technologies in healthcare. We do this through a worldwide series of conferences, code-a-thons, prize challenges, and more. We also have the leading market intelligence on new health technology companies. Health 2.0 is a partner of the European project GET.

About the GET project

The European project GET delivers services to eHealth SMEs and entrepreneurs in order to boost their growth and move them to the next level of competitiveness. One of the delivered services is the systematic identification of ´unmet needs´ in Health. The objective is to support digital entrepreneurs to spot opportunities following a demand-driven approach (from the need to the solution) avoiding the technology push. The project also provides support regarding business modelling, internationalisation and private funding. This project has received funding from the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 611709.

Contact details are below: 

For any further information, please contact
Twitter: @my_health_apps

Contact                     Dee O’Sullivan
Telephone               +32 2 538 7581
Mobile                      +32 495 893925
Email                         dee@patient-view.comWebsite
PatientView UK: Alex Wyke or Clive Nead

Tel: ++44-(0)1547-520-965

Netherlands office: Drs. A.R.J. Halkes, MHA
Mobile: +31-6-31-66-2595

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