Research of mHealth Apps Reveals Significant Gaps in Quality | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Research of mHealth Apps Reveals Significant Gaps in Quality

December 7, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

An evaluation of 137 patient-facing mobile health (mHealth) apps revealed subpar findings, including that few apps address the needs of the patients who could benefit the most, according to research in December’s issue of Health Affairs.

Researchers from University of Michigan Medical School, the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and elsewhere noted that key stakeholders, including medical professional societies, insurers, and policy makers, have largely avoided formally recommending apps, which forces patients to obtain recommendations from other sources. As such, the researchers evaluated apps that were intended for use by patients to manage their health, that were highly rated by consumers and recommended by experts, and that targeted high-need, high-cost populations.

They found that there is a wide variety of apps in the marketplace but that “few apps address the needs of the patients who could benefit the most. “We also found that consumers’ ratings were poor indications of apps’ clinical utility or usability and that most apps did not respond appropriately when a user entered potentially dangerous health information. Going forward, data privacy and security will continue to be major concerns in the dissemination of mHealth apps,” the researchers stated.

To identify apps that target high-need, high-cost populations, the researchers conducted a systematic search for mHealth apps in the Apple iTunes (iOS) and Google Play (Android) app stores. They also systematically searched for app suggestions on medical professional society websites. They further solicited recommendations for apps through telephone interviews with experts in mobile technology, vulnerable populations, and patient advocacy, and then identified additional health apps based on personal experience. Each selected app was assigned for review to both a clinician and a non-clinician. Apps available for both iOS and Android were reviewed on both platforms.

The app analysis focused on nine variables: the target population for each app; each app’s types of functionality related to patient engagement; app store rating; clinical utility; usability; the app’s reactivity to information that could indicate health danger; the presence of a privacy policy; the mechanism of data sharing; and the cost model. Many apps were designed to serve multiple high-need, high-cost populations, and eleven of them were deemed general enough to be useful across all such populations.

Of the most noteworthy findings, the researchers found that of the 121 apps that allow patients to record health-oriented information, only 28 (23 percent) responded appropriately when information was entered that indicated a health danger, such as suicidal mood or ideation. For only three target populations—people with a history of stroke, those with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and the elderly—did at least 50 percent of the apps react appropriately to relevant health information.

What’s more, nearly all of the apps for each of the high-need, high-cost populations included some functionality to track or record and to display or summarize user-entered information, and many apps provided educational information and reminders or alerts All of these functionalities are likely to be useful to patients with relatively low levels of engagement. In contrast, very few apps focused on providing guidance based on user-entered information or support through social networks, or on rewarding behavior change—functionalities likely to be useful to relatively more engaged patients, the research concluded.

In terms of secure data sharing, 15 apps (11 percent) enabled data sharing with Apple’s HealthKit, 14 apps (10 percent) enabled users to create a separate log-in for recipients of shared information, five apps (4 percent) enabled data sharing with Google Fit, and 1 app (less than 1 percent) enabled users to submit information directly to their electronic health record (EHR). The absence of secure data exchange is a concern because only 88 (64 percent) of the reviewed apps had a privacy policy, the researchers concluded.

Based on their findings, the researchers offered the following recommendations to organizations interested in assessing the value of apps for specific patient populations:

  • Involve clinicians and patients in the review process
  • Tailor recommendations based on engagement level
  • Require crisis management standards
  • Require secure data exchange

According to the researchers, the results suggest that the marketplace of mHealth apps targeting high-need, high-cost populations is maturing and is diverse enough that medical professional societies and patient advocacy groups should give serious thought to how apps may be used to benefit specific patients. Still, they said that there are many gaps in the apps and substantial room for improving them. “Consumer app ratings represent a good place to start for identifying high-quality apps, but such ratings should be supported by clinician and patient input on clinical utility and usability. While the app industry needs to do further work to meet basic safety and privacy standards, a subset of apps already conform to these standards. Policy makers need to consider how to encourage app developers to build apps that respond appropriately to dangerous information entered by users,” they concluded. 

The Health IT Summits gather 250+ healthcare leaders in cities across the U.S. to present important new insights, collaborate on ideas, and to have a little fun - Find a Summit Near You!


LabCorp Joins Apple Health Records Project

November 5, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
| Reprints

LabCorp, a provider of clinical laboratory and end-to-end drug development services, has announced that it has enabled Apple’s Health Records feature for its patients.

This iPhone feature aims to make it easier for LabCorp patients to access their LabCorp laboratory test results, along with other available medical data from multiple providers, whenever they choose, according to officials.

In January, Apple announced that it would be testing the Health Records feature out with 12 hospitals, inclusive of some of the most prominent healthcare institutions in the U.S. Since that time, more than 100 new organizations have joined the project,  according to Apple.

LabCorp test results are viewable in the Apple Health app for LabCorp patients who have an account with the company, and enable integration with the Health Records app. In addition to their LabCorp test results, patients will have information from participating healthcare institutions organized into one view, covering allergies, medical conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals.

Patients will receive notifications when their data is updated, and the Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode, Touch ID or Face ID, according to officials.

“LabCorp on Health Records will help provide healthcare consumers with a more holistic view of their health. Laboratory test results are central to medical decision making, and broadening access to this information will help patients take charge of their health and wellness, and lead to more informed dialogues between patients and their healthcare providers,” David P. King, chairman and CEO of LabCorp, said in a statement.

More From Healthcare Informatics


HIMSS Analytics Introduces Infrastructure Adoption Model for Health Systems

October 25, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
| Reprints

HIMSS Analytics, the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, announced the introduction of the Infrastructure Adoption Model, or INFRAM, which is designed to measure the technical infrastructure used within a health system.

The INFRAM focuses on five technical subdomains, allowing organizations to benchmark how their infrastructure operates within the following areas: mobility; security; collaboration; transport; and data center.

Similar to HIMSS Analytics’ well-known Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model, or, EMRAM, the INFRAM is an eight-stage model (0 – 7) that allows healthcare IT leaders to map the technology infrastructure capabilities required to reach their facility’s clinical and operational goals, while meeting industry benchmarks and standards.  The final stage, Stage 7, guides organizations towards optimized information integration, contextualization and orchestration essential for the delivery of higher order local and virtualized care processes.

For reference purposes, Stage 0 on the model represents that an organization does not have a VPN, intrusion detection/prevention, security policy, data center or compute architecture. Stage 3 signifies that an organization has an advanced intrusion prevention system, while Stage 5 represents having video on mobile devices, location-based messaging, firewall with advanced malware protection, and real-time scanning of email hyperlinks.

HIMSS officials note that by identifying specific benchmarks for organizations to reach before they go live with EMR, systems, the INFRAM aims to ensure that a health system’s infrastructure is stable, manageable and extensible. Through this, organizations can ideally improve care delivery and create a pathway for infrastructure development tied to business and clinical outcomes.

 “The INFRAM is a welcome addition to our maturity model suite and addresses a longstanding need – guiding healthcare organizations in securely implementing the infrastructure with which their EMRs are built upon,” Blain Newton, executive vice president, HIMSS Analytics, said in a statement. “We have seen health systems engage with advanced clinical applications, only for them to ‘glitch’ under infrastructure that isn't powerful enough to support their tools. With the INFRAM, healthcare providers can develop a detailed, strategic technology plan that defines their organization's current state, desired future state, and each stage in between to achieve their clinical and operational goals.”

Related Insights For: Mobile


Clinical Team Communication and Data Access in the Palm of Your Hand

Thursday, October 25, 2018 | 1:00 p.m. ET, 12:00 p.m. CT

Eisenhower Health, a west coast-based Magnet Hospital, implemented an enterprise-wide solution enabling mobile communications and collaboration across all care teams, linking the entire enterprise, advancing its communications capabilities, creating access to an enterprise directory, and improving care team response and turnaround times.

Additionally, the system provided extensive and comprehensive reporting with data analytics showing where and to what extent response improvements were made, but also providing the information the hospital needed to better utilize the system and make adjustments to improve results.

See more on Mobile

betebet sohbet hattı betebet bahis siteleringsbahis