Are Health Apps Meeting the Needs of Patients and Clinicians?
Abena Ansah-Yeboah  |  October 15, 2018
There has been a steady increase in mobile health (mHealth) app investments in the past decade, with over 325,000 mHealth apps available in the Apple and Google Play stores as of 2017 [1]. With disproportionately high spending on healthcare in the United States [2], in comparison to other first-world countries, this comes as no surprise, as these apps have the potential to improve practice efficiency and promote higher quality care while lowering costs. Still, despite the market saturation of this brand of digital software, are health apps actually meeting the needs of patients and clinicians?
Data from current research suggests this is not the case, with a number of gaps found ranging from misdiagnoses to safety and privacy concerns. The four major policy issues that must be addressed in order to improve the value and efficacy of mHealth apps are as follows:
(1) Safety and protection of public information
(2) Comparative assessment of apps based on evidence catalog
(3) Feasible integration with electronic health records (EHRs)
(4) Development of high-quality products that cater to health issues of audiences most in need
Implementation of the necessary policy solutions rests on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and research funding at both the federal and private levels. Regarding safety and privacy, FDA review is typically limited to apps linked to medical devices or those that provide specific treatment recommendations – in other words, apps that can have the most direct patient impacts and the largest legal consequences. The paper’s authors suggest this is not acceptable, as there are a vast number of acute and chronic physical and/or mental conditions that are targeted by mHealth apps and affect individuals in their day-to-day lives, and it is crucial that all public health information be protected, regardless of the severity of potential repercussions.
As for app assessment, this serves a significant purpose by allowing patients and physicians alike to evaluate value and productivity – which apps genuinely make a difference? The FDA recently announced the launch of its new Software Precertification (Pre-Cert) Program, a regulatory model designed to assess the effectiveness of digital technologies [3], however, its current design fails to include evaluating product effects on improved outcomes. To fill this gap, public and private funding efforts could be applied towards the creation of a health app directory, with each app given a standardized score rating in areas such as safety and privacy, usability, accuracy, popularity, and so on. Ideally, customers would be able to make informed decisions and utilize mHealth apps that are both popular and effective.
The gap between digital market products and healthcare infrastructure needs continues to widen as appropriate, comprehensive research and regulation initiatives fail to be carried out. In our quickly-evolving age of digital technology, mobile health apps have the potential to completely transform current models and workflows of healthcare in positive way to improve patient outcomes and lessen financial burdens on the system as a whole. Higgs Boson Health is committed to remaining cognizant of patient and physician needs in the broader framework of health policy, as we continue to develop our leading product, Manage My Surgery®(MMS).