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BMJ Open study shows significant & sustained interest in digital health products throughout lockdown

“When we’re questioning whether GPs should revert to face-to-face appointments, we should reflect on the massive success of tele-health during COVID-19.”

Research scientists led by Simon Leigh, head of research at ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Health and Care Applications), have examined web-based internet searches for digital health products before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This first-of-its-kind public health paper, just published by BMJ Open, shows beyond doubt that the pressures put on the routine delivery of healthcare during the pandemic lead to ‘significant increases’ in searches for digital health products.

Examining two years of collated data (from January 2019 to December 2020), the team found that:

  • Searches for digital health products increased by 343% following the first lockdown
  • Searches for MSK and physiotherapy products increased by 2036% and those for allergy and fitness/diet increased by 1253% and 1051% respectively
  • 92% of medical condition areas saw an increase in searches

Commenting on the paper, Simon Leigh said: “We set out to explore whether demand for digital health products changed following the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures… it did!  And these increases weren’t a flash in the pan at the start of lockdown – they were sustained in the nine months following the first lockdown, with 84% of condition areas still experiencing demand at least 50% greater than pre-lockdown levels.

“When we’re questioning whether GPs should revert to face-to-face appointments, perhaps we should reflect on the massive success of tele-health during COVID-19. Whilst a video or telephone call won’t work for everyone, for many patients it works brilliantly. This could be the start of increased acceptance of a whole new generation of medical technology and we should be encouraging GPs to use a range of approaches, including digital health products, to match the needs of patients and provide the choice they are wanting.”

The full paper, Web-based internet searches for digital health products in the United Kingdom before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a time-series analysis using app libraries from the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA), is available for free here or by clicking the PDF download icon below.

About ORCHA

Founded by NHS clinicians, ORCHA is the world’s leading digital health evaluation and distribution organisation. We provide services to national health bodies across three continents, including the NHS in 50% of UK regions, delivering national accreditation frameworks, bespoke Digital Health Libraries, and professional recommendation tools, specific to the needs of our clients. ORCHA’s unique Review Engine assesses digital health solutions against more than 350 measures across Clinical/Professional Assurance, Data & Privacy, and Usability & Accessibility, plus additional criteria depending on needs.

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