How to tell if a health app is trustworthy…

The facts:

  • …in excess of 7.7 billion mobile technology subscriptions worldwide – and growing…

  • …mobile networks cover around 95% of the world’s population (note: not the same as landmass)…

  • …In 2018 the global mHealth market is expected to be valued at USD 28 billion, more than tripling its value since 2015. By 2020, the market value is anticipated to reach USD 46 billion…

  • …more than 318,000 available health apps…

  • …worldwide and counting, with more than 200 new health apps made available daily…

  • …currently more than 860 clinical trials on Digital tools and mHealth apps worldwide…

(Lange Nielsen 2018)

Key factors to consider to assess suitability of a health app:

  • Privacy / Data protection’

  • Credible sources / Evidence-based information’

  • Usability / user experience’

  • Functionality’

  • ‘Security / authentication’

  • ‘Effectiveness / Impact’

  • ‘Interoperability”

(Lange Nielsen 2018)

Click here to read a review that lists a range of health app’s that have undergone assessment according to the above suitability criteria (Lange Nielsen 2018). Tip: scroll to the appendix to see the apps!

The Mobile App Rating Scale is also a useful resource to assist in assessing the suitability of a health app – click here to find out more:

This is what is happening in the EU at the moment…. (Byambasuren, Sanders et al. 2018)

Quality, safety and your best clinical judgement:

But we (Søgaard Nielsen and Wilson 2018) think there are some other factors that you need to take into account when using your clinical judgment in regard to selecting quality and safe digital interventions for therapeutic use in the clinical setting: Combining e- mental health intervention development with human computer interaction (HCI) design to enhance technology-facilitated recovery for people with depression and/or anxiety conditions: An integrative literature review Click here

And for nurses specifically… this quick-to-read free-to-read guide about the safe administration of digital interventions is useful: The right way for nurses to prescribe, administer and critique digital therapies (Wilson R. L. 2018)

…and more on the topic here too: Preparing nurses to be prescribers of digital therapeutics  (Ferguson, Hickman et al. 2018)

Last word…  If you are a registered health practitioner and you are providing advice about the suitability of health apps to assist people with a health problem… you have a responsibility to ensure that you have the right skills, and the right evidence to underpin your practice. There are so many apps to choose from, and there are a lot of charlatans to avoid… but if you do clinical due digital diligence, you should be able to find a vast array of suitable digital therapeutics for the prevention, management and treatment of physical and mental health problems for many people in most places in the world.

References

Byambasuren, O., et al. (2018). “Prescribable mHealth apps identified from an overview of systematic reviews.” Digital Medicine 1: 1-12.

Ferguson, C., et al. (2018). “Preparing nurses to be prescribers of digital therapeutics.” Contemporary Nurse 51(1): 1-4.

Lange Nielsen, S. (2018). Report On International Practice On Digital Apps. S. Rimpiläinen. A project supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), The Digital Health & Care Institute: 1-97.

Søgaard Nielsen, A. and R. L. Wilson (2018). “Combining e-mental health intervention development with human computer interaction (HCI) design to enhance technology-facilitated recovery for people with depression and/or anxiety conditions: An integrative literature review.” International Journal of Mental Health Nursing.

Wilson R. L. (2018). “The right way for nurses to prescribe, administer and critique digital therapies.” Contemporary Nurse 0: 1-3.

 

 

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