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Only 15% of healthcare apps meet safety standards, research reveals

Only 15% of healthcare apps meet minimum safety standards, highlighting a “desperate need” for a proper review process, new research has concluded.

Health app evaluation organisation ORCHA evaluated more than 5,000 apps against 260 performance and compliance factors and found that majority do not meet the minimum safety requirements.

Liz Ashall-Payne, ORCHA’s Chief Executive, said: “We believe that digital health apps are one of the most important tools available to help tackle health issues in an ageing population that’s facing more complex, long-term problems. The fact that only 15% of apps that we review meet the minimum standards show there is a desperate need to regularly and properly assess the apps available to ensure that people are protected against the serious risks associated with downloading ineffective or even harmful apps.”

Helen Hughes, Chief Executive of Patient Safety Learning, which is working with ORCHA to improve the safety of apps, said the research reiterated the need for consistent regulatory standards and accreditation frameworks to be applied to healthcare apps.

“One of the areas we are beginning to explore with ORCHA is whether or not we can consider what patient safety would be in part of the review process,” she said. “Essentially what we want is patient safety embedded in all of the review processes so that we can inform and guide clinicians and inform and guide patients."

“And that there is appropriate research on their use and their impact so that information can feed the improvement of standards.”

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Source: Digital Health. 9 October 2019


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Nice related freely-available study: Safety concerns with consumer-facing mobile health applications and their consequences: a scoping review. Saba Akbar, Enrico Coiera,, Farah Magrabi. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. https://doi.org/10.1093/jamia/ocz175

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