Study: Cancer-Focused mHealth Apps not Useful or Safe | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Study: Cancer-Focused mHealth Apps not Useful or Safe

January 2, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
| Reprints

A recent study by researchers at the University Health Network in Toronto found that consumer-based, cancer-focused mobile applications are effectively not useful nor are they safe.

The researchers wanted to look at whether these cancer-focused apps were effective or usable, and conducted a systematic review of the official application stores for the four major smartphone platforms: iPhone, Android, Nokia, and BlackBerry. They included apps that focused on cancer and available for use by the general public, reviewing 295 in total.

The researchers found that most apps targeted breast cancer (46.8%, 138/295) or cancer in general (28.5 percent or 84/295). The predominant purpose was to raise awareness about cancer (32.2 percent or 95/295) or to provide educational information about cancer (26.4 percent or 78/295). Others supported fundraising efforts (12.9 percent or 38/295), assist in early detection (11.5 percent or 34/295), promote a charitable organization (10.2 percent, 30/295),  and disease management (3.7 percent, 11/295).

One problem, according to the researchers, was that only three apps used social networking capabilities. Only three they found asked users to exchange information and support with others. “Two of these apps enabled users to post questions and responses to other users of the app in the form of a mobile community of support, and the third consisted of a book of survivors’ experiences with the disease,” the researchers wrote.

In determining if the apps were safe for use, the researchers also found regulatory issues with the apps and their consumption. According to the researchers, “Future efforts should focus on improving and consolidating the evidence base into a whitelist for public consumption.” They noted there is no consumer-based information that would report standards for app store descriptions, and a set of criteria to aid consumers in selecting health apps.

The findings recently appeared in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More



MGMA: Physician Compensation Data Illustrates Nationwide PCP Shortage

Primary care physicians’ compensation rose by more than 10 percent over the past five years, representing an increase which is nearly double that of specialty physicians’ compensation over the same period, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Circulation, Buoy Health Collaborate on Integrated Platform for Patient Transportation

Boston-based startup Circulation Health, a ride-ordering exchange that coordinates medical transportation logistics using Lyft and other transportation partners, is partnering with Buoy Health, also based in Boston, to integrate their platforms to provide patients with an end-to-end healthcare experience.

HITRUST Provides NIST Cybersecurity Framework Certification

The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST), security and privacy standards development and accreditation organization, announced this week a certification program for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (Framework).

Report: Interoperability in NHS England Faces Similar Barriers as U.S. Healthcare

Electronic patient record interoperability in NHS England is benefiting patient care, but interoperability efforts are facing barriers, including limited data sharing and cumbersome processes falling outside of the clinician workflow, according to a KLAS Research report.

Geisinger National Precision Health Hires Illumina Exec to Lead Business Development

Integrated health system Geisinger has hired a high-profile genetic counselor to head up business development for Geisinger National Precision Health, which was created to extend the Geisinger model on the national scene.

$30M VC Fund Launched to Spur Innovation in Cardiovascular Care

The American Heart Association, together with Philips and UPMC, has announced the launch of Cardeation Capital, a $30 million collaborative venture capital fund designed to spur healthcare innovation in heart disease and stroke care.