Medical Groups Collaborate on Mobile Health App Guidelines

Four healthcare organizations have joined together in a new nonprofit to create best practices ensuring the safety, quality, and effectiveness of mobile health applications.

As the health-related mobile app industry continues to grow and consumers turn to them to help manage chronic illnesses, so does the need to ensure their quality and safety.

That’s why the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, DHX Group, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society have formed a new nonprofit called Xcertia.

“This is about moving the market in the right direction so we have high-quality, safe, effective mobile health apps to benefit consumers and for use by healthcare professionals,” said AMA’s Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Michael Hodgkins.

Xcertia will gather all industry stakeholders—including members of the development, technology, academia, consumer, and healthcare communities—to draw up best practices on the creation of mobile health apps.

These guidelines, which will be available online by the end of 2017, will direct app developers as well as inform consumers and healthcare professionals using these tools.

“We’re interested in helping developers better understand what consumers and healthcare professionals expect from these apps, what they’re looking for in order to make informed decisions, so they can develop better apps that are going to be used,” Hodgkins said. “And we’re also looking to help consumers and healthcare professionals make more informed decisions.”

He explained that there hasn’t been significant work done ensuring health apps’ quality and safety. And that gap has coincided with a lack of transparency around how health apps are developed, the sources and quality of the evidence their information is based on, and their efficacy. There also has been little focus on the apps’ design and ability to engage patients.

“This effort is to create that transparency around the important things that people should take into account when considering the use of a mobile health app,” Hodgkins said. “And that includes things like privacy and security and the ability of the app to interoperate, especially with the electronic health record.”

While some research has been done in the areas of privacy, security, and interoperability, there has been little done specifically on the apps’ effectiveness. To help with this, Xcertia will create a series of chartered work groups of subject-matter experts to review existing research, then refine and add to it in order to draw up the best practices.

Although Xcertia will not certify health apps based on the guidelines, it will actively encourage developers, investors, and consumers to reference the guidelines and will allow them to be used should another group create such a certification.

“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,” Xcertia’s founders said in a press release. “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.”


Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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