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A bright future for health apps as Sigma and ORCHA join forces

UX design and development agency, Sigma, has been selected by ORCHA, the world’s leading health app evaluation and advisor organisation, to help developers improve the usability and accessibility of their health apps.

ORCHA offers a range of trusted review and accreditation services, helping health and care organisations to unlock the power of Digital Health. It also provides improvement reports and advice to developers, detailing what can be done to better meet the needs of health and care providers, including connecting them with specialists in the fields where help is needed.

ORCHA has reviewed more than 6,000 health apps to date for NHS organisations and national health bodies worldwide. After spotting that a high proportion of otherwise good apps fall-down because of usability criteria, it formed a partnership with Sigma.

With a rich heritage in consulting on digital user experience for public, private and non-profit organisations, Sigma is well placed to advise developers on everything from research and design to testing and optimisation.

Through the collaboration, both organisations aim to make the burgeoning health app ecosystem more successful, as inclusivity and accessibility are key criteria for the health and care industry. It is hoped that more apps will build in usability and accessibility from the start, ensuring that both the content and the functionality of health apps is perceivable, usable and well-understood by all users, including those with impaired vision, hearing loss or deafness, motor difficulties or neurodivergent conditions.

The partnership aims to establish a framework of user research, co-design, testing and training to help vendors and developers in digital health create the most user-friendly and inclusive applications possible. This will include researching and prototyping new health app concepts, and supporting business case development through feasibility user research and testing.

Sigma and ORCHA will also work together to offer insights into the app experience through inclusive usability and accessibility testing with people who have ranging abilities. Since 2019, all new public sector websites and mobile apps in the UK must meet certain accessibility standards, something on which Sigma has already advised numerous public sector bodies.

The partnership will also train and coach app vendors and developers to embed inclusive thinking into the research and development cycle, and will work on developing open standards and sharing insights to assist the wider digital health tech and academic research community.

Hilary Stephenson, managing director at Sigma, said: “We have been increasing our work and campaigning in the field of tech accessibility, particularly in health and life science research. Working with ORCHA gives us the opportunity to reach more people, to help raise awareness of inclusive design and start to build a community of practice that values accessibility and user experience. We can’t wait to help app developers, patients and clinicians take a more user-centred approach to digital health.”

Paul Davies at ORCHA said: “The health app sector is full of growth and possibility for helping people to live healthier lives, manage their conditions more effectively and provide useful information to clinicians and healthcare practitioners. But to truly harness those benefits, it is vital that developers, manufacturers and vendors have a clearsighted understanding of how to ensure accessibility and inclusivity. By partnering with Sigma, we will be able to act as real advocates and advisors in driving the industry forward.”