Apps, apps, apps – health, care, wellbeing: must-reads for developers

Last week we covered two calls for health & care app developers: the ADASS apps event, which is looking for apps presenters, and PatientView which is looking for developers’ feedback on what they need when developing health & wellbeing apps; today we focus on medical app news.

PatientView has just released the results of their previous survey entitled “What do patients and carers need in health apps – but are not getting?” This analyses the views of 1,130 patient and carer groups worldwide. The needs and challenges raised were then discussed in a multi-stakeholder meeting held to help define concepts for new apps that address patient and carer unmet real needs. An essential read for health & care apps developers.

Staying just a little longer on statistics, the CTIA resource library has some interesting primarily US-oriented items including a recent item entitled “One in Five US Consumers Use Mobile Apps for Exercise Tracking”.

As many will be aware, this editor has argued for 18 months now in these columns (& elsewhere) for an official approval process for medical apps that includes a measure of efficacy, so they can be compared, where appropriate, with other forms of intervention such as drugs (in the case of treatment for depression, anxiety and pain relief). Workstream 1.2 of the National Information Board has now published their roadmap (disclosure: this editor is on the Advisory Board of 1.2 and two others) which describes how they plan to tackle this topic.

At the same time MIT has now announced the establishment of the Hacking Medicine Institute. This will assess whether digital health products and services really work and, if they do, help them to prove their efficacy to consumers, doctors, and insurers, possibly introducing a little competition which should speed things up nicely. (For a more detailed review of the workstreams including DHACA’s involvement, go to the DHACA website blog – you will need to become a member if you aren’t already, however it’s free).

The Australians have also just produced the MARS (Mobile App Rating Scale) for ranking medical apps. They conclude that:

The MARS is a simple, objective, and reliable tool for classifying and assessing the quality of mobile health apps. It can also be used to provide a checklist for the design and development of new high quality health apps.

Meanwhile, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has provided an 18-page opinion on mHealth. As one reviewer put it:

The EDPS opinion on mHealth reflects the difficulty legislators face in crafting rules that protect the privacy of users, while simultaneously creating an environment that fosters innovation from key stakeholders and allows users to realize the benefits of the mHealth.

This editor was impressed by the depth of the opinion and recommends it as another ‘must read’ for app developers to see where supervisory thinking is going. He was however a tad concerned about statements such as:

In this respect, granting data subjects the choice to limit the processing of mHealth data locally -on their smart devices, rather than on a remote server- is one of the important safeguards mHealth apps and devices should implement.

(The concern here is that, as the GSMA Bike Ride proved (see also videos below), apps on Android phones can interfere with each other, so locally processed data is, for medical devices, inherently less safe unless processed entirely within environments like Samsung’s Knox which are designed to eliminate such interference.)

Inevitably since our last apps round up, there have been new clip-ons to enhance the medical capability of a smartphone, such as the ‘molescope‘ said by iMedicalApps to have shortcomings for cancer diagnosis, and the infrared camera that may have interesting uses in the medical world.

Finally, particularly for RSM members (who get free access), there’s a real treat in videos of the RSM’s sellout Apps event in April. These include:

The BioAid app – another clever use of a smartphoneProf Ray Meddis delivers a talk on the BioAid app and discusses how the mobile app can be used as a hearing aid. He talks through its functionality and testimonials, as well as discussing the role of the audiologist.

Health apps: user guidelines for app developers – making the case – Alex Wyke gives a talk on user guidelines for health apps. She discusses how health apps can improve self-care and patient health, and discusses how this can lead to lower healthcare costs. She also discusses the need for user guidelines and the hurdles that need to be overcome.

The Type 1 Diabetes GSMA bike ride: important lessons for using apps in critical situations – Ian Hay gives a talk on the Orange Healthcare mHealth Grand Tour that took place in 2013. The Grand Tour was a 13-day bike ride through five countries in Europe that was aimed at raising awareness and funds for diabetes.

Transforming mental health through digital apps – Nicky Runickles delivers a talk on the Big White Wall, the mental health app which aims to create a health and wellbeing support network for people in the UK suffering from mental health problems. Nicky talks through the evolution of the app, its clinical and academic partners, and exactly how it works, as well as speaking about some of the successes and challenges encountered so far.

Using smartphone apps to change behaviour – Prof. Susan Michie gives a talk on using smartphone apps to change behaviour. Susan outlines the problems with the current situation and emphasises the need to analyse current apps to identify problems, as well as supporting new developments with empirical evidence and regulated frameworks.

Medical apps: the coming changes to the European and US regulatory regime – Julian Hitchcock talks through medical apps from a legal point of view. Covering EU, UK and US legal standpoints, Julian talks about device regulation, data protection and recent changes that affect the development of new eHealth technology.

The EC/EU view of medical app regulation – Peteris Zilgalvis talks on follow-up actions for The Green Paper on mHealth. He outlines the context of the Green Paper, discusses its outcomes and looks to the next steps to support mHealth deployment.

App developers – don’t miss Julian’s talk in particular!

Special thanks to Prof Mike Short and Dr Nicholas Robinson for their pointers



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