Study: Mobile health has quality issues

Study: Mobile health has quality issues

A new study has found that there are challenges in ensuring quality and safety for patients using mobile health apps.

The study, “Many Mobile Health Apps Target High-Need, High-Cost Populations, But Gaps Remain”, was recently published in Health Affairs.

Although other research studies have found that certain disease outcomes can be improved with the use of a mobile app, this new study shows that these apps can potentially cause harm to certain users.

The researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the University of Michigan School of Medicine, reviewed apps marketed to high-need, high-cost (HNHC) patients and identified a sample of 137 apps on iTunes and Google Play during February 2015 that specifically targeted HNHC populations.

They used keywords for chronic disease and HNHC risk factors as search terms, with specific criteria to determine the effectiveness, usability and safety of the sampled apps.

The study found that current mobile health app reviews related poorly with clinical utility and usability. While 121 out of the 137 had a function to record health information, only 28 responded appropriately to dangerous user input.

The majority of the sampled apps shared health information through unsafe and unsecured methods, such as e-mail or text messaging, where 64 percent of apps had a privacy policy.

As there are benefits in mobile health apps and marketers prefer this method, the researchers suggest that developers have to incorporate measures to improve the quality of safety and security on these platforms.

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