Health apps are often in the news these days. Ofcom, the UK telecommunications regulator, commissioned Kantar Media to carry out qualitative research on attitudes and behaviours of apps users when using devices such as smart phones and tablets. The resulting report, Apps Environment, published today by Ofcom makes interesting reading.
Although the report was commissioned by the UK regulator, I think the findings are applicable to any country. What’s more, the generic nature of the conclusions make them relevant to health apps as much as to any others.
The report says that “among app users, several perceptions were found to be influencing behaviours, attitudes and the low level of concern in the app environment. These perceptions were:
• official app stores monitor and vet the apps they make available;
• well-known brands provide a safe, secure and reliable user experience, and;
• apps are safer than browsers due to their more limited and contained nature compared to browser-based internet use.”
Another finding was that many app users said they paid very little attention to permissions requested by apps – nothing new there then. How many times have you ticked that “I Agree” box to the terms and conditions without reading them?
Very few participants in the research are reported to have raised spontaneous concerns about apps. The researchers say that when prompted, in-app purchasing and advertising were of greatest concern to parents, and at most, a frustration or annoyance to others.
This shows that when it comes to more critical apps such as health apps or those that are designed to provide a safety net in a care environment a stronger regulation may be needed as well as a pro-active educational effort to emphasise the need to be aware of issues such as data privacy.