Making health apps more transparent in terms of quality

The public has access to health apps evaluated by a research team with Danube University Krems participating

23/09/2020

For both patients and therapists it is important to find high-quality mobile health apps. Therefore, Thomas Probst of Danube University Krems developed the German version of the "Mobile App Rating Scale" (MARS) and the "Mobile Health App Database" (MHAD) in cooperation with the University of Ulm and the University of Würzburg. MARS enables experts to rate mHealth apps in a standardized way. These ratings are available on the MHAD website (in German).

There is a wide variety of mobile health apps (mHealth apps) in the field of medicine and healthcare. In the best-known app stores such as the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, more than 300,000 mHealth apps are currently available, with over 200 additional apps added daily. For people the apps are enticing to strengthen their health and to overcome health problems. For the time being no general quality standard for mHealth apps has been established despite the rapid growth of health apps, and recent regulations such as the basic data protection regulation and the EU medical devices regulation. Because of the quality of apps varies widely, and the steadily increasing demand for digital health services - especially during COVID-19 - society benefits significantly from a platform that systematically informs about the quality of mHealth apps.

Standardized rating platform

Professor Thomas Probst from the Department of Psychotherapy and Biopsychosocial Health developed the German version of the "Mobile App Rating Scale" (MARS) together with the University of Ulm and the University of Würzburg.  Experts can use MARS to evaluate systematically and comparably the quality of health apps. MARS comprises 23 elements to calculate a rating scale. Mobile Health App Database (MHAD) is the database that lists the rated apps.

"Two independent specially trained experts evaluate the apps in this project with the validated scale (MARS). Subsequently, these ratings will be reviewed and approved by a third party, and can be accessed freely on the MHAD website. In order to be able to make health decisions on an informative and quality-assured basis the goal is to create the quality of mHealth apps transparently. However, this approach to quality assurance is only a first step, because for each health app, complex randomized controlled efficacy studies are necessary to determine its effectiveness," says Thomas Probst, an expert on mobile applications in the health sector.

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