Accredited mobile healthcare apps are not as secure and data is not as protected as many may believe, new research concludes.
The study, recently published in BMC Medicine, reveals apps offered by the United Kingdom's National Health Service Health Apps Library are sharing unencrypted information. The study assessed 79 apps available in the library as of July 2013 to see if they complied with data protection regulations and principles relating to information privacy.
Data protection and consumer information security have long been cited as a prime hurdles in mHealth app and device adoption by consumers, providers and caregivers. This past summer, Verizon security analyst Suzanne Widup said that mHealth security was not being put front and center, especially in relation to how data is being exchanged from patients to devices. In addition, a recent BlackBerry demonstration illustrated how easy it is for a hacker to alter a medication drip in an IV infusion pump.
Lead researcher Kit Huckvale, of the global eHealth unit at Imperial College London, said the findings suggest user privacy may be unnecessarily at risk.
"The results of the study provide an opportunity for action to address these concerns, and minimize the risk of a future privacy breach," he said in an announcement. "To help with this, we have already supplied our findings and data to the NHS Health Apps Library."