The UK’s NHS Latest App Assessment Framework
Why should patient groups, anywhere, care about the UK’s latest app assessment framework?
Although the UK NHS has historically had some challenges in assessing and reviewing apps, the latest app assessment framework to emerge is worth a look.
Why does evaluation matter to patient groups which have apps? In theory, the assessment will, in time, be required to get an app accepted anywhere within the NHS, including the evolving NHS apps library.
Even if a patient group has no intention of submitting an app for evaluation, the new framework can still be useful. It brings together in one place links to guidance on key aspects of app development from clinical risk through to data security and protection, accessibility and technical resilience.
1: Managing clinical safety
Although the framework is written from a purely UK/NHS perspective with reference to local standards and regulations, the clinical safety section does provide:
- a good overview of the key safety processes and infrastructure health app developers should have in place
- links to helpful templates, such as on managing clinical risks of the app
- guidance on roles required, such as a clinical safety officer.
2: Data protection and technical security
A common theme in our blogs is how exposed patients are to security and data risks when they use many health apps. The data protection section in the new framework embraces the UK’s version of the General Data Protection Regulation, which is gaining worldwide recognition. Again, it links to useful data protection toolkits and templates to help ensure apps offer adequate processes for protecting people’s data and managing risk.
The security section is particularly detailed with a range of links to supporting tools to assess the apps’ security processes.
3: Usability and accessibility
This section of the framework links to guidance and standards on accessibility, and a set of NHS standards which help to ensure that the app is focused on patients’ needs and easy to use.
For example, app developers are expected to show how they involve users in the app’s development:
- “do you consider user needs in your product development and what methods do you use to engage users and understand their needs?”
There are many app evaluation frameworks worldwide, and the latest NHS framework, the Digital Technology Assessment Criteria for Health and Social Care (DTAC), is a long-waited step for the UK. The risk of all these frameworks is if they act as a barrier to patient groups who want to develop apps for their communities and share these through state health services.
It is challenging to find a way to ensure a level playing field where patient groups can have the time, resources and skills to submit an app for evaluation against commercial app developers who can build this cost and requirement into their business models.