Happtique, a mobile health software company, has released its final standards for a certification program that provides a Good Housekeeping-like seal for mobile apps.
Released Feb. 27, the standards specify guidelines on interoperability and privacy requirements that will allow apps to earn a seal, Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique, told eWEEK.
"Most importantly, it enables consumers to know that there is some kind of trusted seal—and that [the app] has been looked at and it should do what it says it's going to do," he said.
The final standards include guidelines about interoperability. If a hospital system is using Epic's electronic health record platform, they would need mobile apps compatible with Epic's software, Chodor noted.
"It wasn't about connected apps when we started, and now it's a major part of it," he said.
The certification program will ensure the health care industry and consumers that apps will satisfy requirements regarding protecting privacy and sensitive financial information, Sandra C. Maliszewski, director of the app certification program, told eWEEK.
In addition, the final standards also include guidelines about user notifications as well as "do not contact" and opt-out commercial messages, she said.
By offering the program, Happtique will help mobile users parse through the more than 40,000 health apps available on all platforms. For instance, about 100 apps exist just for glucose monitoring, Chodor noted, so the certification program will help doctors and patients "cut through the clutter."
While developing the final standards, Happtique collected feedback from the mHIMSS division of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society as well as representatives from federal agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
"The Happtique Certification Standards will not only complement the objectives of key federal agencies involved in the regulation of mobile health apps, but also raise the bar for a growing segment of apps that are currently not subject to heightened regulatory oversight," Lee Perlman, president of parent company the nonprofit Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) Ventures and managing director of Happtique, said in a statement.
Developers can display the seal on their Websites or with app information on iTunes, Google Play and the Amazon HTML5 store, said Chodor.
Happtique released its draft certification standards in July 2012 and introduced the program in January 2012. By this spring, developers will be able to get their apps certified.
Although Happtique doesn't participate in rating the apps themselves, at least two specialists focused on a certain area will evaluate apps in those areas. Two or more dermatologists will review apps for dermatology, and at least two dietitians will provide feedback for apps related to diet.
"We think ratings should 100 percent be in the hands of physicians, patients, consumers, specialists [and] therapists," said Chodor. "We're all about just letting people know that these apps have been scanned for reliability, security, privacy and interoperability."
Intertek, which provides inspection and auditing services, will test the apps for operability, privacy and security. Meanwhile, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) will review apps related to medical education, and GFNS International, a global authority on credentials for nurses and other health care professionals, will evaluate mobile nursing apps.
"The market will dictate what is a better app," said Maliszewski. "At the end of day, it's which has the best content for patients." For example, apps for seniors might get a seal if they're easy to use and compatible with devices that feature bigger buttons, she said.
Developers will keep these standards in mind when developing new mobile health apps, according to Happtique. "This is a living document that will continue to evolve and will be updated as the markets change and as the regulatory environment changes," said Maliszewski.
App developers will be able to register their apps on Happtique's certification portal, and they'll receive notification through the portal if the apps fail to meet the guidelines and require modification, Tammy Lewis, Happtique's chief marketing and strategy officer, told eWEEK.