Coalition seeks feedback on mHealth development guidelines

A set of draft guidelines created by a coalition--including Microsoft, Vitality Institute and University of California San Diego--for responsible use of wearables, smartwatches and mHealth apps is open for public comment through mid-October.

The guidelines look to address social, ethical and legal concerns that may arise during the development of mobile healthcare tools.

"Innovative personal health technology products are producing completely new categories of data and creating completely new challenges for developers, clinicians and users," Dennis Schmuland, M.D., Microsoft's chief health strategy officer for the U.S. Health and Life Sciences division, says in an announcement. "Now, as we create guidelines to help the legal, ethical and societal considerations catch up to the innovation, I encourage my colleagues to review the guidelines and share their input."

In addition to the worries surrounding data security, user privacy and regulatory concerns, the potential of too many unvetted health apps invading the marketplace looms, according to an article published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The draft wearables guidelines offer six recommendations, calling on innovators to:

  1. Protect the privacy of a user's health data
  2. Clearly define who owns a user's health data
  3. Make it easy for users to accurately interpret their data
  4. Integrate validated scientific evidence into product design
  5. Incorporate evidence-based approaches to health behavior improvement
  6. Be accessible to marginalized populations

These recommendations highlight some of the larger problems currently impacting the mobile healthcare sector. Patients increasingly are using mHealth tools, but are struggling to effectively leverage them to improve care. In addition, security is not being built into such devices and until vendors put security into their products from the start, "we're going to see more and more issues with these things," according to Suzanne Widup, a senior analyst with Verizon.

Public comment on the mHealth guidelines closes on Oct. 15, after which they will be finalized and shared with industry leaders. A voluntary group of organizations will then oversee the guidelines.

For more information:
- read the announcement
- check out the guidelines (.pdf)
- comment on the guidelines

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