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Happtique Halts Mobile Health App Certification

Posted on December 20, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve written a number of articles over the years about Happtique. Much like I railed against the meaningless CCHIT certification, I felt that Happtique was the same as CCHIT but for mobile health. I was partially comforted by the criteria that came out because they were so general and broad. They were still meaningless, but I felt they could have been much worse. Either way, I don’t think a certification has any value when it comes to mHealth. They don’t know how or can’t measure the right things.

As the tweet above mentions, Happtique as halted their app certification after a developer revealed a number of major security holes in 2 of the Happtique certified apps.

The blog posts on the developer site are well worth the read. The thing that stood out to me was how the security issues were very simple security practices. It wasn’t like the developer used some complex hack to find the security holes. The passwords were stored in plain text. I mean really? They didn’t use any encryption in transit. Amazing!

Of course all this reminds me of all the HIPAA breaches we hear about where a laptop wasn’t encrypted. There are at least a few things in healthcare that should be considered no brainer decisions. Encryption is one of them.

Hopefully a number of good things will come out of this situation. First, people won’t trust a mobile health certification. Second, mobile health developers will see that they need to take security and privacy more seriously.

I created a little poll for you to share your thoughts on mobile health app certifications. Plus, feel free to pontificate in the comments.

Discover The Best Health Apps With AppRx by Health Tap

Posted on June 3, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Well, Health Tap has once again come out with a new and useful way to help people find legitimate healthcare information. In an effort to help people sift through the 40,000 health and exercise apps available, AppRx was created.

AppRx is a directory of apps that have been recommended and reviewed by some of the world’s leading physicians. If you’ve ever tried looking through apps, it can be hard to figure out which ones should be trusted. Because, not all health apps should be regarded as so.

It’s a simple idea, but one that I think is long overdue. I just checked it out, and it looks like it is very easy to navigate. You can search for specific apps, or select from a variety of categories. There are 23 different categories, that cover everything from ab workouts to mental health to pregnancy. You can even set it to show just iOS compatible apps or Android compatible apps. To be honest, I think that’s one of my favorite features! Back when I only had an Android device, I got so frustrated when I was searching for a certain kind of app, and only iOS apps would show up.

You can also sign up for a newsletter, which sends you an app of the week — this weekly publication highlights a certain app that comes highly recommended from physicians. So if you want to try out new apps that already have the seal of approval from a physician, this might be a good newsletter to subscribe to!

I am excited to use this website — not only for my personal use, but to help find apps to write about on here! There are already some app certification programs in the works, such as Happtique, but until apps start getting the mark of approval from that, AppRx is a great alternative. I use Health Tap a decent amount, and I do trust that information I get from there, so it will be nice to have this additional resource.

Happtique Unveils Find Draft of Certification Standards

Posted on March 11, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Because I’ve covered Happtique a few times in the past, I thought I would do a brief update on the latest from the company.

Happtique announced on February 27th that the final draft of the app certification standards are completed. They can be viewed here. The standards fall into four categories that mHealth apps will be evaluated and certified against. These cateogires are operability, privacy, security and content. While the company isn’t yet accepting apps to be certified, app creators can expect to pay between $2,500 and $3,000 to have their app reviewed.

Fierce Mobile Healthcare reported that Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique, told them that the mHealth market is a “Wiild West” environment. This is because “no one knows where they come from and the apps haven’t been properly reviewed.” And with there being more than 40,000 mHealth apps available right now, there’s definitely bound to be some bad ones. These apps could range from just having inaccurate information, to making outrageous claims.

In the same article, Fierce Mobile Healthcare talked about how a recent probe from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting showed how there are a lot of deceptive mHealth apps out there. As they put it, “consumers are being ‘bamboozled by hucksters.'”  The survey found that, of the 1,500 apps involved, more than 20 percent were not legitimate, and could possibly endanger people. Kind of scary. One would hope someone would be able to discern if something is real or not, but I imagine there’s some pretty savvy people out there who can make something look more real than it actual is.

I’m excited that it looks like Happtique is just about ready to start reviewing apps and certifying them. I think that it will really help add legitimacy to mHealth, and hopefully get more people to trust it — consumers and physicians alike.

Why Medical App Makers Should Get Apps Certified

Posted on October 15, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Is getting an app certified worth the effort? David Lee Scher, MD, recently listed five reasons why it is a good idea. These reasons are:

1. Consumers, patients and healthcare providers want reliable, safe apps.

2. App stores will request or showcase certified apps.

3. Certification standards will serve as a guide for app developers

4. Certification will become a competitive advantage in the marketplace

5. Certification might become a standard for reimbursement and formulary placement by players.

I’m not exactly sure what it is going to take to get certified, though we have an idea of what the standards Happtique plan to have. David Scher, MD, was the chairman for the panel that drafted the standards for Happtique. It may seem like an additional hassle (especially with the additional issues that might arise if apps are regulated by the FDA), but I think it will be worth it. To be honest, when I see that something has a “seal of approval” from a respected person or company, I’m a lot more likely to trust the product.

Because many of the health apps that are currently on the market (or will be released in the future) are actually being used to help treat people or provide medical information, this certification might have more pull in someone selecting it, as opposed to other apps being certified. I hope that getting certified isn’t a hard process that will discourage creators from investing their time in it. What do you think? Would you be more likely to use an app if it was certified by Happtique, or other certification programs?

Medical Schools Developing School-Specific Apps for Students

Posted on August 9, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Since I recently suggested 5 Must-Have Apps for Medical Students, I found this article to be intriguing. Apparently, medical schools are starting to create their own apps for students in their programs. The articles lists five reasons why medical schools are starting to provide students with school-specific apps:

  1. There is no readily available means of knowing which apps are safe, reliable, and useful
  2. The apps are developed by clinicians and others out of real and specific needs
  3. A wide range of resources are readily available
  4. Reimbursement is not a prerequisite for development
  5. They are unique and complex healthcare institutions

Until certification programs, such as the one being developed by Happtique, are up and running, I would be wary of trusting just any medical app out there. For that reason alone, I think it is a good idea for med schools to create apps that they approve for students to use. That, or provide a list of apps that have been reviewed by professors and clinicians at the University. Because probably every student in medical school has a smart phone, this would be a great resource to have available for students.

Every school is different, even if the bulk of the material taught is the same. Having course-specific apps developed by clinicians and other educators at the school would be helpful for both students and teachers a like. The article mentioned that this could possibly encourage adoption success, which is a win-win all around. And going into number three, what better place to develop a medical app than a place that has just about every medical resource available? I would be way more likely to trust an app created using medical school resources than just some company that creates apps.

I feel like most of the reasons are similar and connected in some way, but they definitely make sense. While I’m not a med student, or anything close to it, I can definitely see the value in this. There are a lot of possibilities for great apps that could be created. It makes me wonder if possibly a new fee will be added to the already exorbitantly high tuition that comes with medical school: app creation fee. I don’t see this totally coming without a price!

Happtique Releases Draft Standards For Certification Process

Posted on July 17, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Happtique, a catalog of health apps that can be found in the iTunes App Store, has been mentioned a few times here at Smart Phone Health Care. The company recently released its draft standards that will be used under its certification program for fitness, medical, and health apps. The 15 page document can be found here. Until August 15, Happtique is allowing for people to comment on these standards here.

According to this article about Happtique and its draft standards, these standards differ from the ones that were published in a draft by the FDA last year. The goal of Happtique is to list and sell apps in their catalog based on their efficiency, and standards of “operability, privacy, security, and reliability of content.” CEO of Happtique Ben Chodor recently spoke about the certification process, and its necessity because of how many medical, health, and fitness apps that are currently available and the difficulty involved in discerning the good from the bad:

We believe the certification process will lead to the identification of truly high quality apps, thereby giving healthcare professionals and consumers alike the confidence they need in the apps they are recommending or using.

The more I hear about Happtique, the more I am impressed. I think I would rather have this company certifying apps, than having the FDA regulating them. It will be interesting to see the catalog and which apps meet their standards. As I look around at different health, medical, and fitness apps, it is difficult at times to determine if an app is worth downloading or not, especially when it’s newer and there aren’t too many reviews out.

Response to “App Store Becoming a Virtual Pharmacy?” From Happtique’s Ben Chodor

Posted on June 20, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

I recently wrote a post about Happtique, which I misidentified as an app creator. Fortunately for me, Ben Ch0dor, commented on the post and provided some more insight into the company, which according to Happtique’s website, “is the first mobile application store for healthcare professionals by healthcare professionals.” I decided to post the comment, so anyone interesting in the idea of “prescribing apps” can get a better idea about what Happtique’s mission is, and what it has to offer.

At Happtique, we love a good debate and welcome comments about our initiatives. We would like to clarify that Happtique is not an app creator. The apps in our catalog are from the Apple App Store — we’ve organized them with an extensive classification system in an effort to make it easier to find relevant health apps. The further assist in identifying quality apps, Happtique is developing a program that will validate the operability, privacy, security, and content of health apps.

For our mRx app prescribing trial, we are working with physicians, physical therapists, and trainers to select apps that are currently in the marketplace (none of which we developed). We agree that app prescribing should not replace pill prescribing. Instead, we see mRx as an enhancement to the continuum of care. It allows physicians to connect their patients with relevant, appropriate mHealth apps. This should improve outcomes, since educated and involved patients are far more likely to follow treatment recommendations, use preventative series, comply with medication regimens, and choose healthier lifestyles.

I appreciate that Chodor took the time to better explain the company. As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t think that apps should replace pills, and I’m happy to hear that Happtique hopes that mRx will just become “an enhancement to the continuum of care.”

It is pretty neat that Happtique is creating a catalog of already-existing apps so it easier to find health apps that are relevant to particular conditions. If mRx does become more mainstream in practices around the country (and maybe even world), this would be extremely helpful for healthcare providers, in my opinion. I mean, there are sure to be a bunch of health apps floating around that shouldn’t be prescribed, so if a doctor can just view this catalog and trust that the apps are reputable, it would make the process of mRx prescribing a lot easier. I feel like a lot more doctors would be wanting to prescribe apps if they didn’t have to try and find the reputable ones themselves. Of course, John pointed out that Happtique’s app certification could also go very wrong. We’ll see how it plays out.

App Store Becoming a Virtual Pharmacy?

Posted on June 6, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Recently I was reading about a series of apps that health app creator, Happtique, is currently developing. Basically, the apps would be “prescribed” to patients to aid in their treatment. The catalog of apps available will contain five to 10 different apps. The first ones that will be available focus on heart disease, diabetes, and muscoskeletal disease. Happtique is also considering the prospect of developing fitness and wellness apps.

Doctors who prescribe these apps to patients will be able to monitor if the patient actually downloaded it, but they won’t be able to actually tell if the patient is using it. Those who are interested in using this catalog of apps will be trained “on how to use the apps, how to integrate them into their care plans, how to explain them to patients, and how to prescribe them through the mRx system. Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique, explained the reasoning behind the creation of these apps:

We want to test whether health professionals, when provided with the prescribing technology and a vetted app catalog, will actually integrate apps into their delivery of health care. Additionally, we want to test whether patients, when provided with an app as part of their health care treatment, prevention and wellness plan, will download the app as prescribed.

Interesting, to say the least. I’m split on how I feel about this, to be honest. As I did a little more research and read another article about the debate over this topic: Can mobile apps achieve what pills can’t? I found that I agreed with what David Shaywitz,  a physician-scientist and management consultant for a biopharmaceutical company, said.

The development of an effective vaccine did a lot more for the treatment of polio than applying the best design thinking to the construction of an iron lung ever could. I worry a bit that in our fascination with technology and design – which matter a lot for patients in the here and now – we’re neglecting the need figure out some way to get at the difficult biologifcal questions that remain at the root of the disease.

Yes, there is a lot of amazing technology out there. And I think in general, people may like to be prescribed to use an app rather than a pill. At first, at least. Then I think the novelty of it will eventually wear off. However, I wonder if these apps will truly do for patients what the correct prescription of medicine can do. Just because an app can be created to help with heart disease, doesn’t been it should be deemed a treatment. Does everything have to be solved with technology? I agree with Shaywitz – valuable time and money that is being used for projects like this could be used to get to the “root of the disease.” Believe me, I would rather be told that the ailment I had recently had been cured, rather than being given an app. But I guess, if you think about it, since Happtique is a company that creates health apps, and if they weren’t creating the “prescription apps”, it’s not like they would be finding the cure for cancer. If it does prove to be helpful, then great! However, I don’t think they should really replace actually medicine, just be a supplemental treatment.

New mHealth App Certification – The Next CCHIT Like Mistake

Posted on January 17, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I first heard about the new Secure, Branded App Store for Hospitals and Healthcare called Happtique in early December on Techcrunch. At its core, I think it’s an interesting idea to try and filter through what the article claims are “23,000 mobile health apps available for iOS and Android.” Helping physicians and hospital administrators filter through these apps could be valuable. Plus, most hospital administrators would love a way to have a phone that was limited on which apps it could download.

Well, it seems that the company has shifted gears a little bit. As Brian Dolan from Mobi Health News reported, Happtique is taking the first steps to setting up a certification for mobile health apps.

Happtique, a healthcare-focused appstore, announced plans to create a certification program that will help the medical community determine which of the tens of thousands of health-related mobile apps are clinically appropriate and technically sound. The company has tapped a multi-disciplinary team to develop the “bona fide mHealth app certification program” within the next six months. The program is open to all developers and will be funded by developer application fees.

It will certify apps intended to be used by both medical professionals and patients.

While I think that providing some way for people to filter through the large number of mobile apps, I think certification is a terrible way to go about it. Many people know I’ve written many an article about CCHIT pre-EHR incentive money and how screwed up the CCHIT EHR certification was for the industry. I think it’s just as bad news for Happtique to create a certification for the mobile health industry.

Turns out that Happtique seems to have agreed with this idea back in October 2010 where they said in a MobiHealthNews interview, “We are not in the business of opining whether an app is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ though. That’s not our role. Apple doesn’t do that and others don’t either. If the FDA indicates that an app is a medical device and needs to be regulated, well, that’s a different situation and we can take it out of the store.” Seems they’ve seen a different business opportunity.

They have a couple recognizable names on their board to create their certification including Howard Luks and Dave deBrokart (better known as e-Patient Dave), but I believe they’re going to find that it’s an impossible task. First, because they won’t have the breadth of knowledge needed to create certification requirements for every type of mHealth app. Second, what value will the certification really provide? Third, how do you make the certification broad enough to apply to all 20,000+ apps while still providing meaning to those using a very specific mHealth app? Plus, I’m sure there are many other issues I haven’t thought of yet.

The problem with these certification ideas is that they start with great intentions, but always end up bad.