From a single idea, to a global organisation, ORCHA is on a mission to unlock the power of digital health
This is our story
350+ REVIEW MEASURES
Our Review assesses Clinical Assurance, Data Privacy, and Usability.
6,000+ APPS REVIEWED
We provide transparency on the quality of digital health solutions.
40,000,000+ CITIZENS SERVED
Our Digital Health Libraries support populations across the globe.
3,000+ PROS PRESCRIBING
Professionals use ORCHA to prescribe apps directly to service users.
It’s about access
Knowing she wanted to help people, Liz discovered speech and language therapy, and quickly found it was the perfect discipline for her. And so her course was set. Liz completed a degree in speech and language therapy and, upon graduation, established a clinic.
She had fulfilled her ambition to practice speech and language therapy, and thus help people. Yet, at the end of her first full day in the clinic, Liz felt disappointed. She quickly identified why. After a full day of work, she had only managed to see eight people, yet there were hundreds of patients waiting to be seen, desperate for support, with hundreds more on a waiting list.
Liz realised that the key to solving this problem would be to improve the pathways for access to healthcare. The gradual introduction of computers into the clinic helped. Being able to use templates and consistent records meant the process of seeing patients became more streamlined. Liz and her colleagues could each see 12 patients a day. Waiting lists were reduced from 18 months to 15 weeks in a remarkably short period of time.
Her success led to her being asked for advice from other clinicians. Liz quickly found herself playing the role of ‘trouble-shooter’ – stripping out pathways and helping clinicians improve their service – across multiple healthcare disciplines such as dental, nutrition, and more.
Yet, to Liz, this still felt like ‘fiddling around the edges’. By this point, her experience indicated that pathways needed to be improved at a whole system level across both health and care.
This led to a new role. Liz found herself working with The Kings Fund, creating a programme to support CEOs in health and social care across the North West of England, to enable better access to care for patients.
And then came the smartphone
During the early to mid-2000s, the smartphone made its first appearance on consumer markets. Together with the emergence of ‘apps’, it quickly became clear to Liz that digital solutions could play a significant role as an enabler: empowering individuals to monitor and manage their own health.
By 2012, the nascent app market had become established and taken root amongst the public; over 20,000 health apps were available. By 2014, this number rocketed to 30,000. Digital start-ups were appearing in their hundreds across the UK and Europe.
It was in this context that Liz started a new role as digital health lead at an academic health science network. She wanted to connect the aforementioned digital start-ups with the NHS, connecting their digital health solutions with healthcare professionals, patients and service users.
Yet it just wouldn’t happen.
“Again, I identified it as a pathway problem,” says Liz. She recognised that there was a need for an organisation to act as the arbiter – the trusted advisor on digital health – to connect app developers and healthcare organisations (along with their users) with each other.
“There was an awareness that there were lots of health apps out there amongst healthcare professionals. They didn’t, however, know which ones were accurate, where they could be found, or how trustworthy they were in terms of clinical merit, user privacy and data control,” Liz explains.
But it was during a conversation with an app developer that the idea for ORCHA was truly born.
The app developer was trying to gain traction for his digital health solution with the NHS. When Liz explained how she could help, he suggested that she had the makings of an organisation that could make a major difference.
And so ORCHA came about, centred on two core principles:
- The systematic review of health apps.
- The systematic distribution of health apps.
These are principles which have their roots in the world of pharmacology. Manufacturers of medicines must follow a very clear pathway of regulation and testing in order to secure a pathway to market. ORCHA replicates this approach for the developers of health apps.
With a documented approach and a business plan, things started to accelerate quickly for Liz and the early ORCHA Team.
But things accelerated even more quickly following an unexpected phone call.
ORCHA goes into business
Liz was browsing a bookshop in a Paris airport on the way home from a conference, when a book in the business section caught her attention. It was by Sir Terry Leahy, the former CEO of Tesco and prominent businessman.
In what can only be a remarkable coincidence, Liz’s phone rang just as she arrived home from her travels. Yes, Sir Terry Leahy was on the other end of the line and wanted to discuss ORCHA. He’d been sent ORCHA’s business plan and, in a Dragon’s Den style plot twist, was interested in providing seed funding to the venture.
With seed funding established, ORCHA was able to really get off the ground and fulfil the initial promise that had been spotted by Liz’s developer client.
That was just over five years ago.
Since then, ORCHA’s much vaunted review process has been built and put through its paces. ORCHA’s Digital Health Library was launched in 2016 with an initial range of 100 apps. Today, the Library contains thousands of apps, with over 6,000 Reviews having been carried out by ORCHA.
In line with Liz’s career-long ambition to help more people, ORCHA has gone global.
Now, ORCHA is operating in 11 countries, with plans in the pipeline to operate in many more, and is operating with in-country partners, governments, and health and technology innovators across the world to drive the adoption of great health and care apps so that people everywhere can, through technology, look after their health and wellbeing.
That’s ORCHA’s story, and it’s only just getting started.
What our clients say
“By working with ORCHA to create an online platform of apps that are safe for our young people to use, we know that we can encourage more young people to reach out for help, and, therefore, we can save more young lives.”
– Lisa Roxby, Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide
What our clients say
“ORCHA helps us to break down the barriers around digital health. Partnering with ORCHA is helping to build the trust with clinical teams through education and awareness. It also saves a great deal of time in horizon scanning.”
– Crystal Dennis, Our Dorset Digital
What our clients say
“ORCHA has helped us to hone down the very many apps that are out there, to those that are really applicable in our environment.”
– Rachel Dunscombe, Director of Digital, Salford Royal Group
What our clients say
“Using apps in addition to therapy means patients might not need to come into hospital quite so often, and it will help them to progress.”
– Hannah Silcock, Occupational Therapist, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust
What our clients say
“Having something like ORCHA is a gamechanger because you can direct patients towards apps that will support the clinical information that you’re giving them.”
– Dr Devender Roberts, LMS Chair and Clinical Lead for O&G for the W&CP
See how ORCHA works
Discover how our services, including Reviews, Digital Health Libraries, and market intelligence reports, can work for your specific needs.
Download our reports and brochures
Our team of clinical and digital experts continually monitor and ask questions about digital health developments, providing impartial and up-to-date insights which can be accessed in our reports, brochures and opinion pieces.
Your Health and Care App Library
Search ORCHA’s App Library, featuring thousands of independent app reviews across a broad spectrum of health conditions. Every app is evaluated against more than 350 measures across Clinical/Professional Assurance, Data & Privacy, and Usability & Accessibility, making it easy for you to find the best apps for your needs.