Digital Interventions

Over 15 million people in the UK are living with a long term condition. With life expectancy increasing and demand for GP appointments reaching a record high there is a growing need to find ways to support and empower patients to self-care. Whilst digital interventions come in many formats and vary in terms of the required levels of patient and health professional involvement a recent systematic review (Morton et al. 2016) found that patients focused on having a better understanding and awareness of their condition following the use of digital interventions.

NHS England is working with PHE to bring together a number of evidence-based digital tools that can be used for health and care. The NHS digital library has a selection of tools that have gone through a technical assessment and are labelled "NHS Approved". If an app is approved, it:

  • meets NHS quality standards for clinical effectiveness, safety, usability and accessibility, and has evidence to support its use.
  • has strong evidence supporting improvement of patient outcomes and
  • the NHS definition of quality has been considered and the same principles have been applied to digital products. These meet what is considered to be good quality digital standards for safety, experience and effectiveness. This means the following:
    • Safety: Both clinical safety and information safety (Information Governance, Privacy and Security)
    • Experience: Ensuring user-centred design, accessibility and product stability
    • Effectiveness: Is measured by clinical effectiveness/outcomes, cost effectiveness and/or effectiveness of impact

The NHS has approved many apps to support selfcare e.g. the ‘myCOPD’ app which helps patients with COPD to manage their condition, with advice varying from inhaler technique and rescue plans to pollution forecasts.

There are a range of PHE apps which have been approved including the award-winning Change4Life Sugar Smart mobile app, which uses the camera on a mobile phone to scan barcodes on food and visualise added sugar content, and One You, which addresses health risks in mid-life. These apps have radically changed public health campaigns and health promotion. On line web-based tools are already evidence-based and do not appear in the digital app library.

As well as the NHS and PHE approved apps, there are other local digital platforms which have been developed to enable self-care. Some areas have also developed digital platforms for referral to services, including social prescribing.