What’s caught my digital health interest recently

At the Royal Society of Medicine we’ve just announced our next medical apps event on 7th April next year, Medical apps; mainstreaming innovation in which we feature for the first time a presentation by Pam Kato, a Professor of Serious Games, so it’s intriguing to see the iMedicalApps review of a clinician-facing serious game, iConcur, for anaesthetists.

We also have a powerful presentation on mental health apps from Ieso Digital Health which doubtless will make the same point as has been made in previous events that online mental health services typically are more effective than face:face. The abstract to the recent Lancet paper by Dr Lisa Marzano et al, examining this topic in great detail, suggests that the academics are now a long way to working out why this is the case and offers further potential improvements; aspiring mental health app developers unable to access the full paper may consider it worth paying $31.50 (or join the RSM to access it for free).

A regular at the RSM’s Appday is Dr Richard Brady’s presentation on Bad Apps, which next year will now doubtless include mention of the FTC’s recent fifth action against an app provider, UltimEyes, with deceptively claiming they their program was scientifically proven to improve the user’s eye sight.

Moving to good apps the excellent new myhealthapps directory is available for download today (30th September) offering a new classification to improve patient trust in the complex health app market. Of particular interest to this editor, because of his involvement with NIB Workstream 1.2 on medical apps, is the high rate of churn of apps joining, leaving and changing in the directory. Alex Wyke, who runs myhealthapps’ parent, Patient-View, will also be presenting at the RSM Appday – it’s going to be quite a day and combined with senior presentations from NICE/Workstream 1.2, the MHRA, an EU Parliament legal advisor and many more, will quickly sellout the 52 seats still available.

With his DHACA hat on, this editor has also been working closely with Digital Europe recently developing the EU voluntary mHealth Code of Conduct for data privacy, so it’s good to see their Position Paper on mHealth, just published, which makes many sensible, measured, suggestions for not over-regulating the sector. To understand the issues that the Code is seeking to overcome and rebuild user trust in medical apps, this DigitalHealth article does an acceptable job (as well as gratuitously mentioning this editor for a completely different issue at the end). The key paper, looking at the information governance weaknesses of a selection of apps on the NHS Choices Health Apps Library is here – in fairness to the Library though, they were established to provide a list of apps considered by the NHS to be safe (as defined by passing ISB 0129); at the time data privacy was not a topic they were asked to, or staffed to, investigate.

Why this is a particular problem for health & care is analysed well by FierceHealthIT, explaining that it is due to the sector’s combination of lax security and being a rich source of personal data to enable impersonation.

Just worth mentioning is a report from Lansons, a name more associated by this editor with the bubbly stuff, on people powered health which enables me to mention a new word heard recently: iotic (as in pertaining to IoT, not the Middle Earth language).

In the meantime, Wareable.com reports that the battle lines are being drawn in the US over the extent to which wearables should be regulated…which prompts mention of the RSM’s own event – a first for them – on the medical benefits of wearables on 23rd November, followed by one on the Caring Home the following day.

More generally Digital Leaders are running an evening event on 8th October exploring how academic research is informing digital health development. Looks most interesting. Even more topical is the SBRI healthcare Manchester briefing seminar: Reducing pressure on urgent and emergency care on October 13th. The London Health Technology Forum is also holding its next free evening session on October 13th at the offices of our long-term supporters Baker Botts at which we will hear presentations from Touch Surgery, the development of London’s Digital Health Institute, digital health opportunities in China and NIB/Accelerated Access Review progress – something for everyone!

Finally by way of this faintly dystopic view of the departure of Tim Kelsey that was recently drawn to my attention, I’ll leave you with the observation that most people will suffer at least one serious medical diagnostic error in their lifetimes – personally I have so far experienced three to date – so let’s not set expectations too high for technology when humans we know are fallible.

Huge thanks in particular to Mike Clark, Sharon Le Corre, Dr Nicholas Robinson  and Prof Mike Short for pointing me to some of these stories.



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