The European Commission is working towards improving the safety and transparency of health information collected by mobile apps.
Its newly set up mHealth app working group will be tasked with assessing the validity and reliability of the data that is collected and processed.
The Commission also wanted it to produce draft guidelines for the area, which it says should be ready to be published by the end of this year.
The promise of health app guidelines follows the Green Paper on mobile health issued by the Commission in 2014, when it outlined the technology’s potential to empower citizens to manage their own health, improve quality of care and comfort for patients and assist health professionals in their work.
The Paper also identified safety and transparency of information as one of the main issues that limited mHealth uptake.
The European Commission said: “The large number of lifestyle and wellbeing apps available, combined with no clear evidence on their quality and reliability, is raising concerns about the ability of consumers to assess their usefulness.
“This could limit the effective uptake of mHealth apps to the benefit of public health.”
The 20 members of its mHealth working groups represent civil society, research and industry organisations and include the European Society of Cardiology, King’s College London, and Hannover Medical School.
Also taking part are MSD (Europe), French assessment body Medappcare, UK-based NGO the Digital Health and Care Alliance and PatientView.
Last year two stakeholder meetings found an appetite to work towards common assessment methodologies for mHealth, to aid with areas such as linking apps to electronic health records and for their effective uptake in clinical practice.
“Health professionals need the reassurance about the reliability of the apps, in order to be able to recommend apps to their patients and take apps’ data into consideration in a treatment/monitoring process,” the Commission said.
The new working group is expected to build on existing initiatives and best practices in Europe to provide common quality criteria and assessment methodologies for a variety of different stakeholders.
It’s been a long road to get to this stage – the Commission first outlined its plans for more health systems to use digital technology back in 2012, following this up with the 2014 Green Paper. Nevertheless, it says the working group will have its first meeting in March and guidelines will be forthcoming before the end of the year.