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The boom in technology and mobile devices has led to an explosion of medical apps. Today there are hundreds of health-related apps available for download on androids, iphones, and other digital devices. Some apps strictly offer medical information but others offer consumers tips on diet, nutrition, best exercises for weight loss, healthy eating, the nearest emergency room, and what types of doctors are available in their facility. There are over 30 apps for diabetes alone and the same applies to other common chronic disorders like high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, arthritis and so on. Today, even cosmetic surgeons offer advanced anti-aging treatments that enable you to rejuvenate your skin.

Unfortunately, the world of health apps is completely unregulated. Most of these apps have fallen in between the cracks of the federal government and the regulatory agencies. Each agency either claims no responsibility or transfers that responsibility onto others. Even HIPAA has not put out guidelines on what health information can be transmitted and collected via androids and mobile phones.

The recent 21st century Cures Act that was passed clearly states that the US Food and Drug Administration is not responsible for any oversight of health apps geared towards consumers. This complete lack of responsibility or accountability has led the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, DHX Group and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society to form an agency called Xcertia.

To fill in the gap of accountability, assurance of safety and quality of mobile health apps, these four organizations have stated that through Xcertia, they will ensure that any new health apps that are released in future will contain appropriate health information. Xcertia is a not-for-profit organization which will also play a role in the development, marketing and implementation of future digital healthy technology. The eventual goal of Xcertia is to promote best practices for all mobile health apps in the region.

Xcertia has opened up its membership to all healthcare providers, consumers, developers, academia, third party payers, insurance companies and IT professionals who have an interest in the development of guidelines for mobile health apps. Board members to Xcertia will ensure that its mission and vision are consistent with evidence-based medicine.

Apart from these professionals, both Apple and Google have also reached out to Xcertia to help standardize and market mHealth apps.

The board of directors for Xcertia have already stated that this will be a collaborative effort between many professionals to ensure that future health apps promote safe and effective content. As well as maintain the reputation of the healthcare providers that are involved in developing and promoting those apps. The goal of Xcertia is to not only educate patients and deliver quality health information but also to enhance learning among healthcare providers and industry experts. Thus, allowing them to improve delivery of patient care by having access to readily available health information.

Dr Eric Peterson, chairperson of the American Heart Association’s Center for Health Technology and Innovation stated, “Today’s announcement, and the founding of Xcertia with our co-founders, represents a significant first step to bringing meaningful clarity and focus to evaluation within the mHealth space.” He further went on to add, “The AHA is an evidence based organization, so we can add an emphasis on evaluation that is critical for the mHealth space to realize its full potential and, truly, deliver better outcomes for patients.”

Xcertia will develop a framework of principles that will impact the mobile health app industry. Xcertia will continually assess mHealth knowledge for clinical content, privacy, usability, interoperability, security, and evidence of effectiveness to ensure that it advocates the best clinical practices for the industry.

It is hoped that Xcertia will provide guidelines to all healthcare workers and the industry and will make available all resources on hand to make appropriate apps for consumers. So far, Xcertia has stated that it will not engage in certifying mHealth apps, but it will continue to encourage others to develop apps as long as they follow universal principles and established guidelines.

In practice, anyone wishing to develop a health apps will now have to contact Xcertia to determine if they have any resources, advice and what rules need to be followed. It is not stated what will happen to healthcare workers who make their own health apps without first going through Xcertia. The world of mobile apps is huge and impossible to police. Since Xcertia will not certify mobile apps, ultimately any information transmitted in health apps will still be the responsibility of the provider.

Board members at Xcertia have already defined their mission and they hope to make available more information on possible workgroups by Feb 2017.

Anyone wishing to join the collaborative efforts of Xcertia can visit their website at www.xcertia.org and get more details about the organization.

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