News Feature | January 4, 2017

Alliance Aims To Tackle mHealth Safety And Effectiveness

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

ISV Partnerships

AMA, AHA, HIMSS, and DHX Group partner to form Xcertia to improve mobile health app use.

Xcertia, a new non-profit alliance created by the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), DHX Group, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), is designed to improve the quality, safety, and effectiveness of mobile health applications by establishing and promoting best practices for their use.

“The collaboration builds on each organization’s ongoing efforts to foster safe, effective, and reputable health technologies, while complementing our mutual commitment to advancing innovation in medicine, and improving the health of the nation,” said Xcertia four founders. “Our combined expertise, along with a diverse membership, will leverage the insights of clinicians, patients, and industry experts to help improve patient care and increase access to data.”

Xcertia’s governing board will be open to consumers, developers, payers, clinicians, people in academia, and others interested in developing guidelines for mobile apps.

The need for the alliance comes from the expanding use of mHealth apps, despite the evidence they offer many real benefits to users. A recent study in the December issue of Health Affairs concluded that, while a proliferation of novel mobile health apps exist targeting high-need, high-cost populations, real clinical utility is still out of reach for people with chronic conditions. It concluded, “While the number of available mHealth apps has grown substantially, no clear strategy has emerged on how providers should evaluate and recommend such apps to patients.” The result is a clear gap in access for the patients who could most benefit from these resources.

An Accenture survey found consumer use of health apps and wearables has doubled over the past two years as they seek to take control over their own health and wellness. The study found mobile health app use increased from 16 percent in 2014 to 33 percent in 2016, while wearables use rose from 9 to 21 percent.

But despite rising adoption of mHealth apps, concerns over privacy and security remain with a recent JAMA study finding some health apps may in fact be sharing patient personal information without knowledge or consent. The AMA also issued a blueprint for using mHealth apps in clinical practice last month.

“While some mobile apps and devices are subject to FDA regulation, others are not, and do not undergo rigorous evaluation before deployment for general use, which raises quality and patient safety concerns,” says an AMA Council on Medical Service (CMS) report adopted by the House of Delegates at the 2016 Interim Meeting in Orlando.

“Physicians recognize the tremendous potential in digital health tools and are looking to the AMA to help make sense of mobile health technologies,” said AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, M.D. “Our role in helping to form Xcertia underscores the AMA’s ongoing commitment to innovation and collaboration that helps empower patients to assess mobile health apps, and enable physicians to take a lead role in advancing the state of digital health technology.”