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22.01.2016

Progress towards a global model for the assessment of mHealth applications and solutions

Image | DarkoStojanovic

The use of solutions based on mobile technology is increasingly common in the health sector. In fact, there are more and more regulated applications covering different needs of both professionals and patients. Even so, a universal assessment model has still yet to be created, one agreed to by the key stakeholders at the international level and that can serve as a guide for developers and caregivers to make informed decisions when applying one solution or another.

The production of this official evaluation model is what prompted the Mobile World Capital Barcelona mHealth team and other stakeholders in the sector to organise a series of workshops aimed at establishing the key points in this document and to determine the development guidelines for its drafting.

The first workshop was held in February of 2015. During the workshop a roadmap was drawn up featuring five actions designed to support the construction of the model’s guidelines. Based on these five actions the and the Mobile World Capital Barcelona mHealth programme organised a second workshop, in September of 2015, to present the first two parts of the Assessment Model. At this session representatives from key institutions in mHealth from eight countries shared their views on the model presented, to agree to possible improvements based on consensus amongst all. The TicSalut Foundation, the Norwegian Centre for Integrated Care and Telemedicine, the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth (ISfTeH), and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK (NICE) were some of the organisations represented at this second workshop.

Approved sections of the Assessment Model

At the second meeting the main aspects that the assessment model was to cover were specified:

Taxonomy: A graphic classifying mobile applications by category, phases of implementation over the various pathologies and risk appraisals. According to Laura Ryan, NHS24 Associate Medical Director of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare (SCTT), “Governments and health systems will focus on the red part (the mHealth area of greatest risk). We should also focus on the green part (low risk), because this will become increasingly important in the future.”

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Technical sheet: A tool to define the mobile app or solution based on a number of standard validations. Ideally, this tool should be available online, and associated with an algorithm that automatically detects solutions that do not meet the basic requirements for their proper implementation.

By-field assessment framework: a graphic designed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the various applications; for example, based on their technical features, risk, benefits, and the resources needed to activate the application or solution. The participants at the second workshop established over 50 different aspects to assess in an application.

Assessment itineraries in 5 phases: a chronological evaluation of the solutions according to their stage of development. For example, the evaluation of the technical maturity of an app would correspond to phase 1.

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To verify the proper operation of the proposed Assessment Model its guidelines were applied to Diabetes Diary, an app developed in Norway to help people with diabetes to understand how their health habits can affect their condition. The practical exercise yielded the conclusion that the model presented constituted a good starting point.

The revised version of the Assessment Model was presented in October of 2015, thanks to online meetings held with the various representatives of the major stakeholders.

The third mHealth Assessment Model Workshop will take place on 22 January in London, headquarters of NICE. This time the discussion will focus on the adaptation of the Assessment Model according to the country in which it is applied, establishing the parameters particular to each region based on the cases of the UK and Catalonia. “The idea is to establish a global assessment framework that clinical professionals trust and that is safe for patients within the framework of the European Union,” stated Joan Cornet, Mobile World Capital’s Director of mHealth.