MIT hacking institute to vet mHealth apps, tools

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, via its nonprofit health tech start-up, will begin issuing reviews of connected medical devices, mHealth services and apps researched by Harvard University physicians and experts from MIT's Hacking Medicine Institute.

The hacking institute is willing to say certain apps "are the best," and that other ones "are unsafe at any speed," Zen Chu, an institute co-founder, tells Medical Marketing & Media (MM&M). "The Hacking Medicine Institute is a group of hackers, and we can take that risk."

The reviews, scheduled to debut early this month, will offer up information on devices, websites and apps, and will be updated throughout the year. The goal is to reduce confusion over the more than 165,000 apps currently on the market, and help consumers and providers chooses the best ones for their needs, Chu adds.

The top hurdle on the consumer side is trying to determine which app is best, given the immense choice, FierceMobileHealthcare previously reported. That presents unique challenges, as it creates an intimidating environment for the consumer. and also limits mechanisms for care providers and physicians when it comes to assessing accuracy, efficacy and appropriateness for patients, said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute.

In addition, accredited mobile healthcare apps are not as secure and data is not as protected as many may believe, recent research found. A study, recently published in BMC Medicine, revealed that apps offered by the United Kingdom's National Health Service Health Apps Library were sharing unencrypted information. 

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