Mobile health applications need a risk assessment model and a framework for supporting clinical use to ensure patient safety and professional reputation, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, FierceHealthIT reports.
For the study, researchers at Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom analyzed the current regulatory oversight of mobile apps and identified several different kinds of risks associated with medical apps and ways to address those risks (Mottl, FierceHealthIT, 9/20).
The researchers defined a mobile medical app as "any software application created for or used on a mobile device for medical or other health-related purposes."
The researchers noted that there is not currently a clinically relevant risk assessment framework for mobile health apps, meaning health care professionals, patients and mobile app developers face difficulty in assessing the risks posed by specific apps.
They identified several risks associated with using mobile health apps, including:
- Hindering professional reputation;
- Causing possible patient privacy breaches;
- Resulting in low-quality; and
- Providing Poor medical advice.
The authors also outlined some of the most common variables that can affect those risk factors, including:
- Apps that contain inaccurate or out-of-date information;
- Inappropriate use by patients; and
- Inadequate user education (Lewis et al., Journal of Medical Internet Research, 9/15/14).
Of those, the researchers warned that a lack of education poses the biggest threat to patient safety and recommended that health care professionals begin learning about the apps' risks before prescribing their use to patients.
Overall, the study's authors called for a formal risk assessment framework for mobile health apps to help reduce the "residual risk" by identifying and implementing various safety measures in the future development, procurement and regulation of mobile apps. They argued that medical apps will flourish in the health care industry after a process has been created to ensure their quality and safety can be "reliably assessed and managed" (FierceHealthIT, 9/20).