Happtique Launches Certification Program for Mobile Health Apps

A certification program by the Happtique mobile health application marketplace will evaluate mobile health apps for functionality and security.

Happtique, an online mobile health application marketplace, has announced it will develop a certification program to vet thousands of mobile applications that doctors, nurses and patients use.

The company hosts a multiplatform application store for hospitals, continuing care facilities and doctors' practices using an indexing method called hApp. The company is a unit of GNYHA Ventures, the business arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association.

Happtique sees the new certification program as a "Good Housekeeping" seal of mobile health applications, CEO Ben Chodor told eWEEK.

The organization created the program based on feedback from providers and hospitals, Corey Ackerman, president of Happtique, told eWEEK. Happtique will evaluate which applications are appropriate for clinical use and those that are outdated or poorly built.

Happtique has appointed a Blue Ribbon panel of experts to vet the mobile health applications. They include Dr. Howard Luchs, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y.; Dr. Franklin A. Shaffer, CEO of CGFNS International, a certification organization for foreign nursing school graduates; Dr. Shuvo Roy, director of the Biomedical Microdevices Laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco; and cancer patient and blogger Dave deBronkart.

The panel provides a mix of knowledge in social media and core technology as well as medical expertise, Ackerman noted.

Happtique announced the certification program Jan. 17 and will develop it within six months. Developer application fees will fund the program.

Evaluation criteria will include functionality, usability and security, said Barbara Green, senior vice president at Happtique. Any application, whether it is in the Happtique mobile application store or not, is eligible to be reviewed by the organization.

"Anyone who builds an app that's m-health related is able to be reviewed," said Chodor.

With the certification program, Happtique plans to provide constructive feedback for application developers on how to make their applications better, rather than bashing applications publicly, said Chodor. If an application fails, they can reapply, but their failure may or may not be made public based on the panel's decision.

"The goal is not to slap the hand of those that don't meet criteria," said Chodor. Instead, the organization will focus on promoting applications that get approved.

Rather than limit the number of mobile health applications on the market with its certification program, Happtique aims to "level the playing field" for health applications, said Chodor.

Happtique sees a need for an authoritative endorsement of applications that doctors will recommend to patients. With the FDA not able to evaluate 15 to 20 percent of mobile health applications, an opportunity exists for Happtique to add additional evaluations, Ackerman suggested.

"[The FDA] won't be regulating 100 percent of the apps, and since it's such a large number, it's going to leave a large number of apps that are not subject to their review and approval process," said Ackerman. "So there's a need for the public to find a way to judge the remaining apps," he said.

In addition, the FDA has said it will regulate those mobile health products that classify as a medical device and a small group of medical applications that would directly affect a patient's health.

"Docs will not want to review an app unless it's reviewed by some sort of committee like ours," said Chodor.

The Happtique mobile health application ratings will differ from crowdsource rankings in the Android Market or Apple App Store because of the professional backing of Happtique, which is part of a large hospital association. In the popular application stores, it is often unclear whether applications are being rated based on downloads, revenue or popularity, said Ackerman.

"It might be wonderful that an app got four or five stars from 1,800 people," said Ackerman, referring to application stores, such as Android Market. But the fact remains, "You really don't know who the crowd is."