David Lee Scher: Hurdling mHealth app challenges requires comprehensive strategy

True adoption of mHealth apps won't take place until there is a validation and verification process to ensure safe use and eliminate any potential harm and risk, according to healthcare consultant David Lee Scher, M.D. However, he says in a Medscape post, who or what will drive such a process remains a big question mark.

"Until security and privacy can be assured, the use of apps by physicians will continue to be limited," Scher says.

While physicians, caregivers, providers and patients are eager to tap mHealth technology for the many potential benefits it can deliver, there is a great deal of trepidation and concern as tens of thousands of health apps already available to consumers pose substantial potential risk, Scher says.

"The vast majority of healthcare apps--there are an estimated 26,000, of which approximately 7,400 are aimed at physicians--will not be regulated by the FDA," he writes. "As such, doctor concerns about app quality remain valid."

Currently, it seems, federal regulatory agencies are defining mHealth app and tech oversight on the fly. The FDA in January, green lit the first set of mobile apps for diabetics looking to share data collected by continuous glucose monitors. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission recently sanctioned a melanoma diagnostic app maker for false marketing, but has stated it has no interest in creating new rules for mHealth technology.

Scher also says that the mountains of data collected by wearables and smartwatches could prove completely useless if a comprehensive method for distilling relevant information isn't created. He proposes several potential solutions, from healthcare providers and organizations spearheading app evaluation, as well as developing branded apps for both physicians and patients. Another option, he says, is a certification system, similar to what Kaiser Permanente and other integrated delivery systems have done regarding quality-control programs for apps.

"As healthcare catches up, apps will evolve into tools that will foster more involvement of patients in their own care," Scher says. "Better-educated patients--with better support and enhanced motivation--will become active partners with us in maintaining their health."

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