Patients are more likely to use a health app when their health care provider recommends it to them.
APTA and the Organization for the Review of Care and Health Apps, or ORCHA, have developed a collection of digital health apps and other products for APTA members. ORCHA has independently and objectively assessed these products for safety and effectiveness. Access to the APTA Digital Health App Formulary, powered by ORCHA, is an APTA member-only benefit and makes it easy for you to identify and use quality-assured digital health tools with your patients and clients.
Once you've created your account, you'll be able to:
- Choose, use, and recommend the formulary's apps — including Apple, Android, and web apps — by the click of a button.
- Send out text messages or emails to recommend apps to individual people.
- Keep track of everything you recommend, as well as create lists of your most recommended apps.
Because your recommendations are tracked, you can review them to address any issues with recommending or using an app. You are protected from liability through a full audit trail. Before downloading a recommended app, you must agree to a disclaimer stating that you as the recommender are not liable for issues that may arise.
By recommending only the apps approved and listed within the formulary, risks are exceptionally low. Since 2015, ORCHA has yet to experience an issue of patient harm caused by an app that passed the assessment process and appeared on an ORCHA platform.
ORCHA assesses every product against over 400 standards and regulations to see if it meets standards in these three main areas:
- Data and privacy — whether the app manages, shares, stores, and removes data securely, and who can access the data.
- Clinical assurance and safety — whether potential risks of harm to patient health have been accounted for, if appropriate professionals have been involved in developing the app, and if there is sufficient evidence collected to support its use.
- Usability and accessibility — whether people can use it easily and effectively, taking into account users' physical or mental needs, such as level of visual acuity or digital literacy.
Assessments are based on the Digital Health Assessment Framework, developed by ORCHA, the American College of Physicians, and the American Telemedicine Association. Digital health products must achieve a score of over 65% in all three areas to be eligible to appear on ORCHA platforms.
After receiving information about an app from its creators, ORCHA uses a combination of technology (its ORCHA Assessment Review Engine) and human assessors to review it. Once ORCHA shares the app’s assessment score with the creators, they have 10 days to give feedback. After 10 days, if the app has passed the assessment, then it’s eligible to be added to a formulary.
ORCHA reassesses health apps and digital health technologies annually plus every time they are updated. If an app has not been updated for 18 months, it is considered out of date and no longer safe for use, and ORCHA removes it from its platforms.
If you know of an app that you don't see in the formulary, you can find out its status. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the app and a request to know if the app was assessed and, if so, the reason it wasn’t added to the formulary. You can expect a response within three business days.
If the app has not been assessed and you would like it to be, ask to have it submitted for review, which takes approximately 20 days. There is a small fee to submit an app for assessment, but products can’t simply pay to be included in a formula; they must pass the assessment.
ORCHA has been assessing digital health products since 2015. These digital health products include iOS (Apple) apps, Android apps, and web apps. Through the assessment process, ORCHA helps digital health suppliers, such as app developers, create or improve their digital health products.
ORCHA also creates platforms, such as the APTA Digital Health App Formulary, to share the assessment results and other information about digital health products. These digital health app libraries and formularies help give health care professionals and organizations the confidence to recommend digital health products to their patients and the public.
ORCHA is aware that the 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule added five CPT codes for remote therapeutic monitoring, allowing PTs to bill these codes when they use RTM medical devices that meet the FDA definition of a medical device to collect non-physiological data.
ORCHA is researching ways to address RTM codes so that users of the APTA Digital Health App Formulary can optimize their use of such devices using the products in the formulary.