Health and Medical Apps Get Certified

First-of-its-kind program certifies mobile health apps based on technical, privacy, and content tests.

Not long ago, Apple announced that the number of available apps in its App Store catalog topped 1 million.

That’s a lot of apps.

And while the five-star user ratings and “top charts” can help you choose apps for your Apple or Android (or Windows Phone) device, it can be difficult to know which apps are truly the best for whatever it is you’re looking to do.

But if you’re looking for a health- or medical-related app, you’re in luck: Happtique, a mobile-health solutions company that also is a for-profit subsidiary of the Greater New York Hospital Association, unveiled the 19 apps that make up the inaugural class of its Health App Certification Program (HACP).

“With more than 40,000 health and wellness apps available today, providers struggle to sort through the marketplace to find apps that they trust and that are right for their patients,” said Corey Ackerman, president and COO at Happtique. “The Health App Certification Program is voluntary and allows developers to submit their apps to be tested in four categories: privacy, security, operability, and content. The program is a step toward bringing some transparency to the health app market about app quality and safety.”

Apps that obtained certification, which is valid for two years, include popular downloads like Calorie Counter PRO, GenieMD, and Urgent Care, among others.

To develop the standards for the program [PDF], Happtique consulted with leaders in mobile health, healthcare technology, healthcare certification and accreditation programs, and patient advocacy, as well as representatives from federal agencies involved with the regulation of mobile health apps, Ackerman said.

Though the process was tedious—from conducting research to drafting the standards to consensus-building around the standards to incorporating public comment—the group learned a number of lessons that will be applied moving forward, Ackerman said.

The program could have broad applicability, especially considering HACP was designed around similar programs in other industries.

“When developing the HACP, we looked both to healthcare accrediting bodies like the Joint Commission and National Committee for Quality Assurance, as well as consumer trust marks like the Good Housekeeping seal,” Ackerman said.

No matter where the inspiration for a certification program is drawn from, involving a broad range of stakeholders needs to be a priority, he said. “The other important consideration is maintenance. We consider this program and its standards to be living concepts that require constant review, feedback, and updating to remain relevant in the fast-paced world of mobile technology. Launching a program like this is really just a first step in an ongoing commitment to serve the industry.”

The iOS heart-health app Cardiio, shown, is among the approved apps on Happtique's list. (press photo)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!