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Evaluating Smartphone Health Apps: 5 Key Steps

Evaluating Smartphone Health Apps: 5 Key Steps

  • Finding a good health smartphone app can be a challenge. Scroll through the slides for more on the APA Smartphone App Evaluation Model.
  • -There are now over 250,000 health apps.
    -Existing health apps are constantly changing.
    -The FDA is taking a ‘hands off’ approach to most health apps.
    -Static health app ratings like ‘88/100’ or “B+” don’t take into account what is unique about your case at hand or the fact that apps are always changing.

  • -Apps may not protect patients’ personal health information.
    -App may offer incorrect and even dangerous advice.
    -Apps may be ineffective and waste patients’ time and effort.
    -Apps may not be able to respond to emergencies.
    -Most apps are untested.

  • For more details and help with app evaluation, visit the American Psychiatric Association website at: https://psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/mental-health-apps. “The app evaluation model is the result of work by the APA’s smartphone app evaluation workgroup and the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society’s Health Information Technology Committee.”

  • -What is the business model / If free, how does it support itself?
    -Who is the developer?
    -Does it claim to be medical?
    -Cost / In-App Purchases / Free?
    -Is there advertising?
    -What platforms (eg, iPhone, Android) does it work on?
    -When was it last updated?

  • -Is there a privacy policy?
    -What data is collected?
    -Is personal data de-identified?
    -Can you opt out of data collection?
    -Can you delete data?
    -Are cookies placed?
    -Who is data shared with; what data is shared?
    -Is data maintained on the device or the web?
    -What security measures are in place? Is data encrypted on the device and server?
    -Does it say it meets HIPAA?

  • -What does the app claim to do vs actually do?
    -Is there peer-reviewed, published evidence about tool or science behind it?
    -Is there any feedback from users to support claims (App store, website, review sites, etc)?
    -Does the content appear of at least reasonable value?

  • -Is it easy to access for the patient at hand?
    -Would it be easy to use on a long-term basis?
    -Is it customizable?
    -Does it need Internet to work?
    -What platforms does it work on?
    -Is it accessible for those with impaired vision or other disabilities?

  • Can it share data with an electronic medical record (EMR)?
    Can you print out your data?
    Can you export/download your data?
    Is there a dashboard to view your data?
    Can it share data with other user data tools (eg, Apple HealthKit, FitBit)?

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