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Health App Ratings

By February 26, 2016Commentary

Okay, so let me get my bias out there right up front–health apps, mobile or otherwise, are never going to have more than a marginal impact on the health system and especially on the big issues facing the system.  There are a lot of apps out there (165,000, according to the study)–how do we know useful or “good” any of them are.  Many are available through Apple, Google and other heavily used consumer app stores.  Consumer reviews may be available; how trustworthy are those?  How about a review by experts of the most popular health apps for depression and smoking cessation in the iTunes store?  That is what a study published in JMIR-mHealth provides.   (App. Study)    For this study, 6 experts used 22 measures to evaluate apps.  The study analyzed how similar the raters evaluations were across the measures.  This can be important because the closer the ratings are, the more likely you can assume they reflect the actual characteristic of the app, and the more useful the ratings are to consumers.  Conversely, wide dispersion of ratings suggests that consumers would have a wide range of reactions to the app and its utility.  Turns out it must be hard to come to common agreement on how good an app is on these various measures, because their was great disagreement across the raters on most measures.  The greatest agreement was on matters like whether the app had password protection and gave feedback and was interactive.  The least was on measures for ease of use, errors and performance problems.  If experts have trouble rating apps consistently, seems unlikely consumers will be able to easily evaluate their utility.

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