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BSI publishes healthcare app guidance



British Standards Institution says that NHS is looking at PAS 277 in developing process for recommending applications

A code of practice for developing health and wellness apps for potential use in the NHS has been developed by business standards company British Standards Institution (BSI), with the support of the government's technology organisation Innovate UK.

Titled PAS 277, the BSI said it provides a set of principles for the developers of health apps to follow in order to win the trust of healthcare professionals and the public in their products.
The code of practice stems from a BSI research and strategy report, A Framework for Standards to Support Innovation in Long Term Care, published in September 2014.

A spokesperson for BSI told UKAuthority that PAS 277 is a voluntary guidance document with no accreditation process attached, and that developers will be able to choose whether to follow or deviate from its recommendations. But using them will help to demonstrate compliance with best practice.

It has been developed to respond to concerns over poor quality apps.

"However, the focus is on the scale-up of use in the future, especially as the proliferation of apps occurs," the spokesperson said. "A code of practice like this will help to guide app developers in a way that creates a high quality, consistent approach across the industry."

She added: "The NHS is developing a process for app recommendation and is aware of PAS 277 in this context."

Full life cycle

The code covers the full project life cycle of an application, including development, testing, releasing and updating, taking in fitness for purpose and the monitoring of usage. BSI said it can apply to apps intended for internal use by organisations or placed in the market, including those available free of charge.

Anne Hayes, head of market development for governance at BSI, said: "There is huge scope for advancement in the area of wellness innovation .... It is therefore also our responsibility to safeguard the consumer and healthcare professional by governing the apps that are developed in the future. We can only do that by arming app developers with guidance such as PAS 277."

Innovate UK, formerly the Technology Strategy Board, sponsored the development of the guidance, which had input from several healthcare organisations including the Association of British Healthcare Industries, the Digital Health & Care Alliance, the Health & Social Care Information Centre and the Royal College of Physicians.

Health and wellness apps can be used by patients to manage their healthcare, providing personal data to access products, services and interventions they might need.

Pictured: BSI logo by Spurkait (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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