Happtique has published a draft set of the standards that it will use to certify medical, health and fitness apps that are available through its US app store. The aim of the exercise is to reassure users and advise physicians across a number of criteria including operability, privacy, security and content reliability. Following a period of public comment, the company’s certification programme will be launched in autumn 2012.
"The idea of certification was borne out of feedback from hospitals and physicians," said Barbara Green, Happtique's SVP of new business initiatives. "It is designed to provide the marketplace with apps that meet certain key standards," she said.
Given the huge array of apps available, doctors want to know whether someone has assessed them across the range of criteria. CEO Ben Chodor said Happtique received "an outpouring from industry asking 'how do we know which is the best app?' They really want a good housekeeping seal."
The programme is designed not just for users but also healthcare professionals too. Happtique says it has developed the programme in response to comments from healthcare organisations and doctors who need a way to identify apps they can recommend to patients.
The shortcoming in this area is borne out in a recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of PwC that found only about one quarter of doctors encourage their patients to use mobile health apps.
The app store says it met and had feedback from a significant number of organisations in putting together its draft programme. This included the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which last summer published its own draft set of guidelines for regulating mobile apps. It has been expected for some time that the agency would publish its final proposals but they have yet to appear. The FDA is likely to put greater emphasis on public safety than the kind of criteria highlighted by Happtique.
Barbara Green estimates that the FDA guidelines will cover about 20 percent of all apps which "leaves a lot of questions about the quality of the remaining 80 percent," she said.
The company is on time with its previously announced schedule for producing draft certification. Six months ago it set up a panel of experts to advise on the programme who have now delivered their proposal.