New York-based mobile healthcare provider Happtique has published final standards for its mHealth application certification program that the company hopes will serve as a "good housekeeping seal of approval," giving medical professionals and consumers confidence that certified apps live up to their billing, according to the company's announcement.
With the help of the Association of American Medical Colleges, CGFNS International and Intertek, Happtique's Health App Certification Program (HACP) will evaluate and certify mHealth apps against the final standards which are grouped into four categories: operability, privacy, security and content.
More than 40,000 mHealth apps currently are available across multiple mobile platforms, Happtique CEO Ben Chodor told FierceMobileHealthcare. He described the market as a "Wild West" environment that has run amok because no one knows where they come from and the apps haven't been properly reviewed.
"Healthcare professionals and consumers need third-party certification to verify that the app they are prescribing or downloading delivers credible content, contains safeguards for user data, and functions as described," Chodor said.
A recent probe by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting found that consumers are being "bamboozled by hucksters" selling mHealth apps that purport to cure everything from acne to alcoholism. In its survey of 1,500 apps, the center found that more than 20 percent claim to treat or cure medical problems, many of which do not follow established medical guidelines and have not been clinically tested and in "some cases could even endanger people."
Although the standards have been finalized, Chodor said Happtique and its partners currently are not yet ready to accept app submissions for certification. By early spring, when a HACP portal is up and running that can accept formal applications to the program, "we will be scanning and certifying apps," he said.
HACP will charge a fee of between $2,500 and $3,000 to certify an app, according to Chodor. He said the program has established a goal of 30 days or less turnaround time for an app to complete the certification process. The certification would be valid for two years.
Last July, Happtique released draft certification standards and associated performance requirements for public comment that were developed under the direction of a Blue Ribbon Panel with input from, among others, mHIMSS, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
However, Happtique is quick to point out in its announcement that "while the final certification standards reflect this valuable collective feedback, and input provided during the public comment period, it does not represent their approval or endorsement."