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Discovery Phase /

Alpha /

Beta /

Rapid prototyping


Public Health England

Discovery Phase /

Alpha /

Beta /

Rapid prototyping

IE Digital worked with Public Health England (PHE), on an agile project to create an endorsement process for NHS approved health apps, and then to create a service manual for publication on The work was based on Government Digital Service (GDS) Design Principles.

Public Health England (PHE) is an executive agency of the Department of Health, which exists to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. This project aimed to stimulate activity in the sector and make health apps available that are of benefit to public health, by giving healthcare professionals the confidence to recommend apps to their patients.

The project is part of Workstream 2 of the National Information Board (NIB) – which aims to save £20bn from the healthcare budget in five years. Project stakeholders include MHRA, HSCIC (NHS Digital), NHS England and NICE.

Visit the service manual on

Public Health England case study
Step 1 - Listen

Giving clinicians confidence

Health apps and wearable tech will be key to reducing pressure on care services in the future – placing the focus firmly on prevention.

However, there’s a bewildering number of mobile apps – over 230,000 – that claim to offer benefit to personal health and wellbeing. While the public is largely eager and willing to embrace these new technologies, healthcare professionals have struggled to differentiate between the highly effective, clinically proven apps and the countless others. As a result, they are reluctant to recommend them to patients; a problem that must be solved in order to achieve the NIB’s cost saving objectives for the NHS.

The answer is to develop a library of health apps endorsed by the NHS to give clinicians confidence and drive adoption. IE Digital was appointed by PHE to carry out the digital consultancy and systems analysis needed to develop a robust endorsement system.

Public Health England app assessment consultancy – journey mapping on a whiteboard

IE Digital has distinguished itself from other G-Cloud suppliers through their positive, pragmatic approach. Their multi-disciplinary team embraced the challenge of a complex, strategically significant digital service project with multiple stakeholders, users and audiences.

They have succeeded – through skilful management of those stakeholders and clarity around translating strategic objectives into transformative digital service solutions – in delivering a very promising Phase 1 beta.

Diarmaid Crean
Deputy Director, Digital, Public Health England
Step 2 - Advise

IE Digital modelled how the ‘kitemarking’ process might work and determined a multi-stage process. 

It begins with Self Assessment by the app developer/provider to ensure that the app meets a set of key criteria. The app then progresses onto Community Assessment, which enables peer reviewers from the ‘expert community’ to validate and challenge apps, and provide feedback for improvement.

Once the app has passed these stages they’ll move onto a period of business case development and a review by NICE for cost and effectiveness. 

The Self Assessment project was broken into stages, each of which follows the typical Discovery–Alpha–Beta–Live phases in line with Government Digital Service (GDS) Design Principles.

For the discovery phase, we held co-creation workshops with PHE and key project stakeholders including MHRA, HSCIC, NHS England & NICE to determine the scoring criteria involved in assessing the quality of a health app. 

Wireframes for the Public Health England app assessment process

Step 3 - Deliver
Banner image

Next, IE Digital was commissioned to run the alpha and beta design and build process for the Self Assessment stage.

We took an agile approach and built a rapid prototype in WordPress to test ideas quickly in a practical environment. The prototype was user tested to obtain feedback on the workflow, signposting and messaging aspects of the system. This ‘alpha’ product has also been demonstrated at health sector conferences to gain broader industry feedback.

For the beta product, we built a bespoke front end using Laravel, with a Drupal back end for the form creation and user management features and Zoho reports for dashboard reporting. Once the beta product was complete and ready for testing, IE Digital supported and trained PHE to get up and running.

The code and was passed over to PHE’s servers for management by the in house team, with everything fully documented.

Young man using the Public Health England self declaration app assessment on a tablet device

Step 4 - Support

A year later, following various policy changes, PHE asked us to create a service manual – to extract the value of the research, prototyping and testing to date and present it for the benefit of different users.

We assembled a team of in-house domain experts alongside IE Digital’s content designers to define the different audiences and their needs. We then agreed a narrative for each audience and planned the content, mapping each audience to the relevant source data and findings.

We then entered the content production and review phase, to create a complete set of packaged content – in the markdown format and in line with its content design guidance – ready for publication on and subsequent publicity.

The manual helps app developers, commissioners and independent assessors throughout the app evaluation process, and provides set of criteria that must be met and evidenced to ensure that apps meet the required standards for clinical safety, security, usability, etc. It will stimulate activity and ensure a flow of safe apps into the health service – those of benefit to public health and/or those that bring efficiencies and cost savings to the NHS.

See the service manual on