Government agencies face big hurdles in mHealth app innovation

Governmental agencies face a wide spectrum of challenges in creating mHealth apps, ranging from a changing development culture to potential litigious issues, revealed a new report published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.                     

"Beyond the cultural paradigm shift to design interactive apps and to open health-related data to the public, the managerial challenges include accessibility, interoperability, security, privacy, and legal concerns using interactive apps tracking citizen," stated the report, "The Long Way From Government Open Data to Mobile Health Apps: Overcoming Institutional Barriers in the US Federal Government."

The research effort focused on understanding institutional and managerial barriers to mHealth apps and how agencies are carving pathways to meet policy mandates from the White House Digital Government Strategy. The research team interviewed 35 agency managers on vetting and implementing of apps via the open innovation Challenge.gov platform. It was led by Ines Mergel, at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs, Syracuse University,

Agencies are undertaking three app development paths: Building either in-house or contracting out to Web design vendors; adopting at least two customer-facing mobile apps, or using a policy instrument called "Prizes and Challenges," which encourages civic hackers to design health-related mobile apps using open government data from HealthData.gov.

The study noted that agencies are typically not tasked with inventing apps, as they lack the design skills and need to rethink their approach of informing and educating the public given new technological platforms. One interesting research data point, noted the study, is that agencies aren't grappling with app restrictions tied to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

"Instead, they simply avoided the collection of patient data, and handled mobile app development in a conservative manner," states the report.

Data sharing, data protection and data security are big hurdles facing every entity in the mHealth arena. As FierceMobileHealthcare previously reported, user privacy and a confusing patchwork of regulations stall the use of mHealth for humanitarian use, according to research from The Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings. Apple spent a great deal of time this year talking with government officials regarding its HealthKit platform, while lawmakers called on federal regulatory leaders to initiate new data privacy and protection in mHealth app building.

For more information:
- read the research report at the Journal of Medical Internet Research

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