How trustworthy are apps for maternal and child health?

Karen M. Scott*, Gastao A. Gome, Deborah Richards, Patrina H. Y. Caldwell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mobile technologies have become important tools for promoting and implementing healthcare. A key feature of smartphones and tablet computers is their ability to run software applications (apps), which can address specific health-related areas, including maternal and child health; however, there is little independent regulation or guidance for the development and publication of health apps in many countries, including Australia. This research examined health apps in two major app stores (Google and Apple) that address maternal and child health. Ten free maternal and child health apps available in Google and Apple stores were examined to evaluate their trustworthiness and technical performance. This was determined based on evidence of health professional involvement and use of evidence-based medical content, as well as an evaluation of functionality, usability and security. Only four of the ten apps examined were developed with the involvement of health professionals and four provided information from evidence-based medical content. Significantly, only four were fully functional, two were fully usable and three adequately implemented security mechanisms to guarantee privacy of user data. Two of the apps were inoperative. In conclusion, this study found great variation in the quality of content, functionality and security of ten maternal and child health apps. These results suggest developers, owners and health providers should work to improve maternal and child health apps, consumers need help to determine the trustworthiness of health apps, and sponsors and regulators should establish standards and endorse compliant health apps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-336
Number of pages8
JournalHealth and Technology
Volume4
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015

Keywords

  • mHealth
  • applications
  • apps
  • mobile
  • maternal
  • children

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