An Interview with Liz Ashall-Payne, Founder and CEO of ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps)
“There was an explosion of digital health apps. Yet 80% of apps were unsafe and medical device regulations were inadequate,” says Liz. It was clear something needed to change. Somebody needed to ensure that digital health could reach its potential safely and drive the ethical healthcare agenda.
Liz Ashall-Payne sensed an opportunity to improve the lives of many. Yet, the answer required innovation. The health app industry needed a rethink. Failure to do so could have severe consequences. Without rigorous reviews of digital health devices, in the very worst cases, human health could be impacted, or highly sensitive personal data could be shared inappropriately.
The reluctant ethical healthcare superhero
“I never planned on setting up a company, but I knew there was an opportunity and I had an idea. However, I was hoping someone else may do it,” says Liz.
At first glance, Liz Ashall-Payne does not appear to be a typical entrepreneur. “After coming up with the idea for ORCHA I created a business case and sent it out to some investors. I didn’t include an NDA. I think I was hoping someone else might still do it.”
Yet, throughout our interview, it is clear why Liz is so successful. She clearly cares about ethics in healthcare. She is engaging and compelling. Her words are not transactional. She has an effortless charm that underpins clear determination. ” When I told people what I wanted to achieve, 98% said it wouldn’t work. Yet, you need something to believe in. I just kept getting up in the morning, trying to make a difference.”
Liz’s devotion to her mission has had a profound impact. ORCHA are now the leading trusted source of digital healthcare compliance in the world. They review and approve more digital health technology than anyone else. To date, they have carried out over 20,000 reviews and are looking to expand further.
Driving ethical healthcare: The journey to becoming the go-to source of digital health technologies
“Building trust was the ultimate first challenge for us,” says Liz. “We always had a focus on our vision and we were pragmatic. We looked at our next steps and how we could achieve them.”
You sound like a true six-sigma expert, we say. Liz smiles and nods, acknowledging how her background has influenced ORCHA.
Before ORCHA, Liz worked as a six-sigma expert optimising clinical pathways. She did so as a response to wanting to help more people. This theme of ethical healthcare recurs as we delve deeper into her journey.
“I looked at the pharma model and asked, how do we share drugs globally? The model is transparent. It has a good infrastructure. I wanted to do the same for digital tech.”
“To build trust we started off by working with experts to build our (review) criteria.” With this input, ORCHA were able to build a review engine, where each app was measured against more than 350 standards. They worked closely with government bodies which in turn helped underscore ORCHA’s authority. Today, ORCHA’s digital health libraries and formularies are being used across 70% of NHS regions.
“We also share our knowledge which we have built from our assessments,” says Liz. This has led to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence buying their data.
Mission-driven not PR-focused – getting visibility for ethical healthcare
“At 15 I knew I wanted to help people. But I was really squeamish and so I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse. So, I became a speech and language therapist. Yet, I was frustrated because I couldn’t see more than one patient at a time.”
Liz’s mission to help people has been a lifelong ambition. It is this focus that has led ORCHA to gain visibility and trust. They are now a leader in digital healthcare and ensures ethical healthcare is part of the agenda.
Our analytics show ORCHA has been featured in several leading publications. This includes media powerhouses from the New York Times to Forbes.
“It has been serendipitous. I think we get featured because of our generosity. You get out what you put in. We are generous in producing research and sharing knowledge. (Our visibility) was not the result of a PR strategy. Our strategy was to get our mission seen.”
ORCHA has gone about creating visibility the right way. They create marketing materials to engage and excite their audience. Unlike many organisations, they do not expect immediate results. Rather, they take the view that if they are generous, results will follow. ROI is difficult to calculate on a single piece of content, but it is demonstrable over a period of time. That is why almost 90% of B2B marketers use content marketing.
In the last seven years, ORCHA has gone from being the mission of one lady to an award-winning technology. It is now used by governments, health providers and innovators in twelve countries. Liz modestly suggests this is “serendipitous”, but, in truth, there is a science behind it.
The science – creating the right type of content through targeting
As any good marketer will tell you, content is not only about self-promotion. Yet at Antlerzz, we often see this is a concept that many companies fail to grasp. Our analytics provide insight into our client’s target audience. The aim should be to engage your audience and get them to join your tribe and mission.
This is a concept not lost on ORCHA.
“We use social media for thought leadership and to share our knowledge. For example, we did a piece on diabetes management to help give people good information. It helps create a network of like-minded people.
“We look at what people want. Who is our audience and what is topical. For example, when winter pressures are growing, we push related content.”
This is important to understand, for any organisation looking to increase its visibility. You need to understand your audience and its changing demands. People want ethics in healthcare. But you need to understand exactly what this means for them. This can be enhanced through the use of data insights.
Yet, it is not only about creating the right content. Liz says, “The content has got to hit me. I have got to feel it. We always look at the messaging and try and keep it simple.”
This is critical. Too often, companies create generic complex content and share the same thing everywhere. But, if you don’t feel passion for what you create, you are unlikely to generate strong feelings in others. It is like going on a first date with a excel document hoping it will lead to a life of passion. Unless passion for you means discussing formulas over a glass of red – it won’t.
ORCHA Leverage their ethical healthcare brand by working collaboratively
“People sometimes think this is all me. It’s so not me” Liz, graciously asserts. She is keen to point out that she has a team of passionate people who all believe in the same mission.
This collaborative culture is also evident in ORCHA’s work. Liz explains how they use social to raise the profile of health challenges for the benefit of others. They also work with partner organisations to help them engage their audiences.
“For example, we have worked with the NHS. They may want to target the local population. We will tell them what good health apps are available related to their campaign. We don’t include our name on it. It is about helping the NHS.”
What?! You don’t include your name we hear the marketers screaming. This may sound counterintuitive but it is all a part of what makes ORCHA special.
They are a mission-first company. They care about ethics in healthcare. Their goal is to help others. In return, they also build goodwill amongst important stakeholders in the health ecosystem. This helps them to drive their mission but it also helps elevate their brand. It means people trust them.
Conquering the world – Liz for Prime Minister
As we wrap up our interview, we ask Liz where she sees ORCHA going in the future. “Globally I want every digital health app to be built with ORCHA approval.”
That sounds straightforward…
Yet, if anyone can do it, she probably can. Her passion and determination have taken ORCHA to heights many doubted.
A week after sharing her ORCHA business case she managed to get Sir Terry Leahy on board. Yes, that Sir Terry. The former Tesco CEO and brainchild of Clubcard who revolutionised the retail industry. Seven years later, ORCHA is the gold standard for digital healthcare. They can review technology 5k times faster than anyone else. They are trusted by healthcare leaders from the NHS to the CQC and therefore helping drive the ethical healthcare agenda.
So, is there a future where ORCHA review every digital health device in the world? You bet and it can’t come soon enough. We end our interview thinking Liz can achieve anything she sets her mind on. Prime Minister of the UK?