Passing the DTAC with ORCHA

The Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA) is the world’s leading, independent digital health evaluation and distribution organisation and a partner to the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme.

ORCHA helps health and care organisations to deliver the right digital health apps, to the right people, at the right time. Its unique insight, assessment, and implementation services are improving the health of the population, the health of our health systems and the health of the health app ecosystem. ORCHA conducts reviews for government organisations across Europe, the Middle East, and Australasia. In the UK, ORCHA conducts reviews for NHS Digital and NHS providers in 70% of regions. NHS England is accelerating adoption across the NHS, placing ORCHA in its National Innovation Accelerator Programme.

NHSX’s new Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) process is promoted as a simpler, faster assessment process to give staff, patients and the public confidence that the digital health tools they are using meet NHS standards.

Along with its other services, ORCHA is able to guide digital health suppliers through the DTAC, taking them on a compliance journey. And several months after the launch of this new system, ORCHA has some useful reflections to pass on.

One of the first ORCHA clients to go through the process was MY LIFE PLAN.  This is an online adult weight management plan. It was created by MoreLife, a subsidiary company of Leeds Beckett University which provides programmes and services to individuals to help them change their behaviours. MY LIFE PLAN is promoted by NHS England as one of three digital options for those wishing to live a healthier life. 

Produced by a small team, MY LIFE PLAN takes a scientific approach to weight management, looking at the whole person. “It’s not about calories in, calories out,” said Howard Samson, Digital Product Manager. “We look at sleep, exercise and portion size. This isn’t a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle change.

“When it comes to our competitor apps (like Noom and Slimming World), we are a small fish in a big pond but we are unique in that we give a very personal touch, with one-on-one coaching from dieticians as part of our level two offer. A lot of people come to us when they’ve tried and failed with one of the bigger names and want to do something different.”

When MY LIFE PLAN first launched with NHS England in April 2021, such was the demand that extra dieticians were recruited almost immediately.  To date, two thousand clients have joined the 12-week programme and there should be capacity for 30,000 per year in the longer term.

Although the DTAC is promoted as a ‘simpler and faster’ assessment process, the team was aware this could feel like a complex, lengthy process not a quick fix and that being DTAC-certified was a moving feast.  They could pass one day and on the next day one of the many regulations against which they’d been measured could be changed or added to, or they’d update their own programme, and they’d need to re-submit.

MY LIFE PLAN selected ORCHA as its partner for the DTAC. The process took five months and was achieved in a series of steps, with sections submitted and feedback given.

As part of the DTAC, the programme was tested against usability and accessibility plus its technical security and robustness. The DTAC also considers clinical safety and risk, medical device regulations, data protection and user journeys, amongst many other factors, depending on the nature of the product.

Where the developers needed more support, ORCHA offered subject specialists to give clarification. For example, when the security of the programme was raised, the ORCHA review team put Howard in touch with colleagues who were experts in penetration and performance testing. This approach was also taken with the data protection element of the programme.

Howard said: “The DTAC is brand new, so we have nothing to compare it to but I know we all feel we’ve had great support through a complex process.  ORCHA’s experts have been very clear and have broken down all the complexity so it’s become manageable.”

Liz Ashall- Payne – ORCHA

Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of ORCHA, said: “We have many clients preparing to go through the DTAC with us. The process takes time, as there is a lot of documentation to gather. Also, if the developer team is small and they don’t have some necessary expertise in-house, it can be held up, although there are many areas where we can provide support.

“Our advice is to treat the DTAC as a live process and to gear up for frequent re-reviews so that your app or programme remains fully compliant once the initial certification is complete.”

ORCHA has introduced a selection of subscription packages, so that digital health products and programmes can be kept in a ‘compliance vault’ and regularly reviewed against any regulatory or in-programme changes.

ORCHA can offer a 10% discount off one DTAC assessment to any innovators on the Clinical Entrepreneur Programme. Please contact katie.gillett@orcha.co.uk

ORCHA are one of our valued programme partners. They help support, shape and develop the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme. Our partner network provides opportunities for our Clinical Entrepreneurs including internships, access to NHS test and evaluation sites, academic and commercial, knowledge exchange and connection to customers.

If your organisation is interested in Partnership opportunities, please contact the team at cep@aru.ac.uk