No standard rating method for health apps, finds study

By TNT Bureau

Oct 13, 2017: There is no doubt that the healthcare apps are dominating both Apple and Google app stores however; a new study published in the journal JMIR mHealth and uHealth says that there is no standard rating method for health app.  And since, both consumers and health professionals have no such access; there is no possible way to distinguish between the good and the bad apps.

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The need for quality control

The head researcher Dr Adam Landman said that there is absence of guidance on which the health apps are suggested. The objective was to decide if there was any standard rating system that would inform customers as to which apps were offering dependable, secure, information and those that weren?t.

However among the rating methods, none could be found. What the research team saw was that there was important variation as to how they were scoring such health related apps.

Landman and his team selected review criteria that had previously been identified by other companies or researchers as indicators of app quality.

Next, they went ahead to question a team of six reviewers who were experts in mobile health technology to score the health apps via those guidelines. It was seen that every member of the team gave different ratings irrespective of using the same tools.

According to Rock Health there are around 165,000 mobile health apps today and this number will reach $31 billion by 2020.

READ ALSO: Use of health apps will reduce in future, says study

An interesting study

For the study, 4 physicians, a health economist and a nurse practitioner were placed in the focus group. They were then asked to review 20 health apps. Out of these apps, 10 claimed to ease depression while the other 10 helped people to cure smoking addiction. These apps were selected because such issues are on the rise across the nation.

The one score the group agreed on was the level of interactivity of the apps. However, they scored differently other factors such as errors and performance issues, accessibility of software support, privacy policy etc.

John Torous from Harvard Medical School said that one thing that?s relating to is that citizens are providing several health information to such apps and they don?t understand what may happen to their personal health information if it is misused in any means or the other.

The study doesn?t present simple solutions for customers yet. It has raised a red flag for the health community. In studies that build on this one, the group intends to include patient feedback into their assessment process.

Landman advised the people to understand app reviews carefully and to converse to their healthcare provider about apps that they are about to use and also about the apps that they are already in use.

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