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Focus On Apps

 With the rapid increase in ownership of smartphones over the last couple of years, ‘apps’ (short for ‘application’ - a software programme for mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablet computers) have become the latest ‘must-have’ item.

Apps are effectively tools that can sit on your phone and either make your life easier or entertain you. They range in complexity from finding the nearest restaurant, to detecting the star constellations. Some apps are free, and others can be purchased. Many companies have started creating apps for their clients to use, to give them a competitive advantage. The NHS is no exception and NHS organisations have begun to look at how they can use apps to improve the service they provide.  Furthermore, last year the Department of Health ran a competition for examples of useful healthcare apps and suggestions for new ones.

Healthcare apps developed to date include: an NHS Direct app for checking symptoms; a quit smoking app; an app for providing information to patients on various forms of cancer; and an app for calculating burn severity and determining how much fluid a patient needs. If you are considering developing an app in to target the NHS  there are several things to consider.

With regard to intellectual property (IP) issues, these are the same as for any software: the text, layout and software code in an app will be protected by copyright. If you commission a company to make an app, you need to ensure that the contract covers IP ownership, so your Trust has the right to use the app as it wishes. You should also put a confidential disclosure agreement in place with the developer, so that they don’t disclose the details of your app to anyone else. It is also important to remember that healthcare related mobile phone apps may require CE marking under EU medical device regulations. The definition of a medical device was extended in 2010 to make this clear. Software is considered to be a medical device, either in combination with a device or as standalone software, when it is intended to be used for diagnostic and/or therapeutic purposes.

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