Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Review of NHS iPhone apps

A number of NHS “innovators” are up there with their iPhone apps. I say “innovators” loosely as most of the apps are no more than websites in an app – useful but hardly innovative.  What’s more interesting is the lack of apps, even the most basic ones, from one of the world’s largest systems.

The NHS brand is one of the most well known in the UK, and using it and looking after it is important. There is now even a Brand Manager (c.£90k post) on the National Commissioning Board. From my days as the advertising manager in Esso, I know how important it is to make sure logos and accreditations are used properly.  My review of apps discovered many people using the NHS brand when they are not the NHS, and others in the NHS are not using their brand at all.

I chose the apps that appeared under a search for “NHS” on iTunes AND where there was NHS in the logo or title of the app.,The apps listed are all free.  
NHS Direct’ health & symptom checker
One of my favourite NHS apps and one I have used. It feels like the whole of NHS Direct is in my pocket. The feature of finding, for example, a pharmacy nearest to where I am standing is very useful. Comprehensive, easy to use and a flag bearer for app quality.

NHS Drinks Tracker
Not entirely clear but I think this is from NHS Choices (they could use their branding on the app logo perhaps?). Interesting to play with but it looks like it lacks flexibility to suit a wide range of users – as verified in the comments for the app.  Maybe an update is required? There’s also a Dept of Health Change for Life Drinks Tracker (do we need duplication?).

NHS Quit Smoking
Branded in the app as NHS Choices. I like the way it counts the amount of money saved according to the number of days you go without smoking.

NHS BMI healthy weight calculator and tracker
Another NHS Choices app. Clear and easy to use. Like the other apps in the series, it looks from the comments, like it could do with an upgrade.  There is stuff competition in app-world for BMI calculators and food intake / exercise trackers, so there needs to be a good reason for someone to use this one.

NHS Give Blood
From the NHS Blood and Transplant service, though confusingly the app logo doesn’t use the NHS branding. It’s a map function of where to give blood locally. I can see this being very useful in a crisis.

NHS 24 MSK help
Hmmmm, pink logo and very strange branding. Developer is NHS 24. Looks like an exercise app. Didn’t inspire me to download it and try it.

UK Clinical Trials Gateway (NHS Institute for Health Research)
Nice – I like it when the name of the app says what it is about and who it is from. As they say in their blurb, it’s for everyone, patients included, and covers the portfolio of clinical trials registered in the UK. I expect I can also get this off a website somewhere, so the innovation here is packaging it all up – a but like NHS Direct.  There is evidence of the app being updated which also enhances its credibility with me.

NHS Moodometer
This one took some detective work to understand. It’s an app to measure your moods. Useful if you’re in the process of understanding your own moods. It has the NHS logo on it. It comes from 2together NHS Foundation Trust – which I found out is in Gloucestershire – not obvious at all who they are and what they do from their name!  If they are using this app with staff then we need to know about this innovative use of it…

NHS Bristol and NHS Yorks & Humber
This is a well-designed organisational app that looks like it can be a standard one for many NHS areas. It’s more than a replication of their website and it is wonderfully designed for us.  It covers ICE (in case of emergency), your personal reminders and notes, where to find which service and cleverly uses the clour coding of the campaign to reduce A&E attendances (the thermometer). This app has a purpose which goes beyond advertising services.   Will need an update after all the structural changes.

My visit to Guys’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
Excellent. Designed for the patient, this app covers appointments, hospital information and maps.  I like the fact the name of the app says what it is for, and the integration with GPS on the phone is useful.

NHS Tameside and Glossop
Not certain about the logo use but the app is one that has broken away from the regular brochure / map / information approach.  Instead it is disease based giving information about conditions and pathways. I am not sure who is the intended audience? The name of the app left me thinking this was about the organisation but the contents are something different.

Welcome to St George’s Hospital
Another one with an app name that is useful. This is another information type app. I found some of the colouring a bit difficult to read and the design is rather poor. There’s a nice facility for providing feedback to the Trust – though I haven’t tested this.

NHS ActiveME
An app from the Royal Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation Trust allowing the monitoring of daily activity levels.  Nice. Nice. Nice!  Beautiful design, easy to use and I love the graphic reports.

Hmmmm apart from the rather short hand title, I’d not know this was an NHS app. The app logo is coloured stripes – which become obvious when you look at the app – it’s another one of the “ where do I go for what” apps”. 

Northumbria Healthcare’s GP Clinical Information Exchange
OK, so this is something different. Also has CiiX on the app logo. Says it gives real-time infomration about services, clinics and consultants  Not sure what it means by real-time, but what I like is it moves beyond being an directory to adding in some information about what to do if certain thing happen – and that’s good. I’m just not sure we need to add another acronym to the business.

NHSSC Health & Safety Awareness
Logo alert here, if only for adding SC to the NHS. It’s South Central (will need to update (or delete) app when the structural shifts happen). Seem to be aimed at staff though not entirely clear. I like the content but the title, logo and framing is poor.

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