By Kathryn Sorte & Bronwyn Spira PT
According to a report by GigaOm Pro, there are an estimated 6,000 health and medical related mobile applications currently available today (1). Additionally, mobile health is estimated to reach 500 million people by the year 2015 (2). Health care consumers and providers alike are embracing mobile and Internet applications as a way to obtain and share health information. As a result, the efficacy and effectiveness of these applications should be addressed. The question is how?
A group of researchers recently measured the effectiveness of certain weight loss applications and concluded that none of the applications were effective. In their analysis, researchers failed to download or test the effectiveness of the applications on a user population, basing their analysis and conclusions off of the application descriptions (3). The effectiveness of the applications was measured solely on their lack of adherence to thirteen evidence based best practices in their app store descriptions (3). One must ask, is this the best way to test the effectiveness of mobile health applications?
Given the rate at which the number of mobile health apps is increasing coupled with the untraditional nature of mobile health, measuring their effectiveness using traditional methods may not be appropriate. When trying to establish the effectiveness of a mobile health app, researchers should try to gauge the value that users receive from the use of the application. If someone wants to lose weight and finds value in a mobile application, then a mobile health app may be an effective weight loss tool. Likewise, the portability and ease of use of a mobile application may give the user a great deal of utility, which may encourage use. Despite not adhering to evidence based criteria, the mobile app can still be effective.
1. Ranck, J. (2010) Mobile Health Apps Are on the Rise, http://gigaom.com/2010/10/11/mobile-health-apps-are-on-the-rise/
2. Mikalajunaite, E. (2010) 500m People Will be Using Healthcare Mobile Applications in 2015, http://www.research2guidance.com/500m-people-will-be-using-healthcare-mobile-applications-in-2015/
3. Dolan, B. (2011) How Should We Evaluate a Health App’s Efficacy? http://mobihealthnews.com/14241/how-should-we-evaluate-a-health-apps-efficacy/
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