Xcertia takes another pass at app certification, but will it fly? (US)

click to enlargeAn app developer and a healthcare/digital health innovation lab get into the certification game. Can they fly over the treacherous peaks this time? Social Wellth made good on their promise (or threat?) to get into the app vetting business this past week through announcing a partnership with Columbia University-based HITLAB at the HITLAB Summit this week to develop a certification organization known as Xcertia. Last year, Social Wellth acquired the remains of Happtique from GNYHA Ventures [TTA 12 Dec 14]. The Xcertia principles center around privacy, security, operability and content–as Happtique’s did. The intent is to not only develop a program to certify apps based on established standards, but also form a Signature Steering Committee to ensure they maintain “their definitive set of criteria for evaluating mobile health apps.” MedCityNews, release

Possible conflict of interest. It all sounds positive, but the head of Xcertia, David Vinson, is also the CEO of Social Wellth, which despite its nonprofit-ish name makes its living by developing consumer apps and “dashboards” for insurance companies, a task grandly called (from their press release) “the curation of digital health experiences by leveraging mobile health technologies that allow for integration and aggregation of all digital assets.” Social Wellth also makes quite a bit of hay on its website about app curation for its clients. It’s all ‘powered by DHX’ which is a non-profit headed by Mr Vinson that last year organized a digital health showcase at the annual AHIP meeting. Is there a bit of self-promotion and self-referral here?

Resources? HITLAB is a privately funded non-profit that supports multiple projects around healthcare organizations with a technology focus. Some are international. There are few full time staff. How engaged can they be beyond early stages? Xcertia’s staffing plans are unknown but it is nearly a continent away in Las Vegas. We’ve been down this road once before with Happtique, where a small team of staff and advisors attempted to put together meticulous standards, changed tack several times, had a management upheaval and when the certification program finally saw the light of day, it immediately laid an egg [TTA 13 Dec 13].

Giant IMS Health’s AppScript made a great deal of news about app curation, but so far has been silent in public deliverables.

Is this an App Alp? IMS counts 165,000 consumer apps alone. Is it too much for any one organization to manage? The fact is that only 36 in number counted for 50 percent of downloads.

Do 99.9 percent of them even matter? Shouldn’t the focus be on apps that accumulate deep and identifiable PHI? Also, the stakes are far higher with professional apps.

While your Editors favor the idea of app review and certification (Editor Charles has been a staunch advocate in establishing a UK system), they are mindful that the App Certification Experience, to take a page from Social Wellth’s book, so far has been 25 Miles of Bad Road. October’s shuttering of NHS Choices’ Health Apps Library (though the mental health library pilot survives), the Happtique fail, the odd quiet of AppScript….Meanwhile, iMedicalApps’ team of doctors, in their spare time, review primarily professional apps for their readers–and some impressive sounding studies don’t fare well under their scrupulous gaze, even if they like the app!

Send in the Marines! With 165,000+++ consumer apps out there, how can Xcertia–or even IMS Health–reasonably scale a review process, even taking a sample of 1 percent? Shouldn’t they be bringing in tactical support from prestigious medical organizations, academic centers, MIT AgeLab, NHS, the VA (US’ largest and most successful user of telehealth), iMedical Apps, accelerators, the Health 2.0 family, HIMSS, other national health systems, experts who’ve been successful (and taken their knocks) in the business of digital health, analysts, independent practitioners and even a few ink-stained health tech press wretches?

Why do we think the invitations are not ever going to be in the mail?

(We invite representatives from Social Wellth and Xcertia to be in touch with this Editor.)

Categories: Latest News, Opinion, and Soapbox.


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