AHIMA develops guide to help consumers navigate sea of mHealth apps

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has issued a best practice guide to help consumers understand and make better educated decisions about using the thousands of mobile health apps available today.

"There are many apps that provide valuable resources to benefit you and your healthcare provider," states the AHIMA guide. "On the other hand, there are just as many apps that offer quick fixes and may not follow established medical guidelines."

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."

The AHIMA guide is meant to serve as an mHealth app "best practice primer" for consumers. ‏When looking for the right app, the guide advises consumers to consider these questions:

  • Why are you considering this app? Is it to track an existing condition or to improve your overall health and well being?
  • Did your doctor recommend this app?
  • Will the app help you reach your health goal?
  • Is the app helping you learn more about your personal health?
  • Have you checked user reviews before downloading? Is the app easy to use? Are there any user concerns or problems with this app?

When it comes to privacy and security of personal health information, some of the key recommendations the guide makes include:

  • Review privacy settings of the app and your mobile device; know your options and what the default settings are.
  • Read the app's privacy policy to determine how the app collects data, who has access to it and how it is used.
  • Use password protection and encryption.
  • Record your phone's identifier somewhere safe and know how to use a remote wipe which will erase your data if your device is lost or stolen.
  • Remember that texting is not secure; do not share confidential and personal health information via text.

To learn more:
- read the guide