A Toolkit for Evaluating Mobile Health Applications


The broad use of mobile phone health applications, or "apps," has the potential to empower patients to manage their health, engage them in decisions about their care, and improve health system performance. The lack of an accepted framework for evaluating apps, however, limits these benefits and could even put patient well-being at risk. Past efforts have largely failed and emerging ones may be influenced by stakeholder interests. Federal authorities regulate apps that are integrated with medical devices-for instance, an app designed for an insulin pump that guides insulin dosing-but ignore the great majority of apps intended for general consumer use. Findings from the grantee's previous Commonwealth Fund-supported project revealed a wide range of quality and safety concerns in consumer health apps. As a first step toward a formal rating system, David Bates, M.D., and his team will create a toolkit for evaluating health apps and informing consumer decision-making. The set of criteria they develop will encompass measures of usability, safety, and evidence. The team will solicit feedback from a panel of experts and validate and refine the metrics through testing. The researchers will also explore policy and implementation considerations for regulators and rating groups. This project will consider consumers' needs and preferences in the development of app-rating tools, adding an unbiased perspective to a field crowded with vested interests. It will also provide guidance to app regulators and developers.

Grant Details

Grantee Organization:
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc.
Principal Investigator:
David Bates, M.D., M.Sc.
Award Amount:
Approval Date:
April 11, 2017

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