Medical apps need standards to be safe, urges Chief Executive of patient safety charity


  • 16th April 2019

(LONDON, UK, 16 APRIL 2019) – Patient Safety Learning Chief Executive, Helen Hughes, explained how developers and regulators must prioritise patient safety in app design at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) conference, ‘Medical apps: Mainstreaming innovation’.

Pointing to mobile health as the fourth highest patient safety concern – according to the ECRI Institute’s Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for 2019 – Hughes emphasised a need to design and build patient safety into medical apps, rather than consider it as an afterthought.

She highlighted a number of patient safety concerns, including a lack of regulation of new technologies, barriers to accurately receiving data, and incorrect use of technology by patients.

Using the thinking Patient Safety Learning has developed in their upcoming report, A Blueprint for Action, Hughes raised important questions for developers and regulators to consider. Examples included:

  • Have apps been designed using standards for patient safety?
  • Has the patient perspective been taken into account?
  • Does the app design reflect human factors thinking for patient safety?
  • Are providers accurately receiving the data collected?

Hughes acknowledged that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are developing standards for medical apps, but expressed concern that these did not seem to include patient safety. She concluded that the need for patient safety standards, backed by regulation, to inform the design, implementation and safe use of medical apps, is urgent.

Hughes says, “If we can think about patient safety as part of how we design medical apps, we have an opportunity to avoid unsafe healthcare through better design. Mobile medical apps may have huge potential for patient care – let’s use them to drive patient safety.”

Her presentation sparked a lot of interest and questions in the room, and generated Twitter and press coverage, such as this article by Digital Health.

View the full presentation.


Note to editors:

Patient Safety Learning is a charity that seeks to improve patient safety, taking action to harness the knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment of healthcare organisations, professionals and patients for system-wide change.

For more information, contact:

Margot Knight, Marketing and Communications Manager, Patient Safety Learning
T: +44 (0) 7425 156125
E: [email protected]


Helen Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, Patient Safety Learning
T: +44 (0) 7793 550855
E: [email protected]

Patient Safety Learning
SB 220

China Works

100 Black Prince Road

 SE1 7SJ

Patient Safety Learning is registered as a charity with the Charity Commission Registration number 1180689.

Safer apps blog image


A platform for anyone with an interest in patient safety to share and learn from one another. Learn more.

Sign up to our newsletter