News Feature | April 7, 2014

mHealth Apps Need More Review

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

mHealth App Review Process

Study finds apps need more review and assessment before they can add value to providers

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper, “In Search Of A Few Good Apps,” which calls for the review and assessment of mobile apps. According to the authors, these apps require an unbiased review and certification process.

"If we can develop mechanisms to assure clinicians of the quality and safety of mHealth apps, we foresee a potential future in which physicians regularly prescribe apps to their patients, much in the way that they prescribe drugs today," says Adam C. Powell, PhD., president of Payer+Provider Syndicate and co-author of the paper.

"We hope that our article serves as a call to action, and promotes the development of the certification and review mechanisms that clinicians need to feel confident when prescribing apps," Powell told Fierce Mobile Healthcare.

“Because apps can be used to inexpensively promote wellness and manage chronic diseases, their appeal has increased with health reform and the increasing focus on value. The bewildering diversity of apps available has made it difficult for clinicians and the public to discern which apps are the safest or most effective,” says the paper.

Authors conclude, “Although the mHealth app industry is still in its infancy, its future looks bright. With more rigorous certification criteria and unbiased accrediting bodies, clinicians and consumers could be more confident in their selection and use of mHealth apps. In a few years, the notion of a physician prescribing apps might no longer seem far-fetched.”

“However, the potential of apps will only be realized if patients and clinicians trust apps, if apps are known to be effective, and if apps can communicate securely and meaningfully with EHRs and personal health records. Establishing an unbiased review and certification process is a key step in helping mHealth apps achieve their potential.”

Fierce Mobile Healthcare explains that the paper’s authors suggest the ONC could facilitate such a review process. Support for developmental guidelines and the commissioning of both on-profit and for-profit entities to certify the apps would go a long way to protect patients. "The short reviews found in app stores are currently inadequate, as they do not contain any sort of comprehensive clinical or security review. When patients use an app, they need to feel confident that the medical information provided is accurate and that their personal data is being handled securely."