New mHealth App Certification – The Next CCHIT Like Mistake

I first heard about the new Secure, Branded App Store for Hospitals and Healthcare called Happtique in early December on Techcrunch. At its core, I think it’s an interesting idea to try and filter through what the article claims are “23,000 mobile health apps available for iOS and Android.” Helping physicians and hospital administrators filter through these apps could be valuable. Plus, most hospital administrators would love a way to have a phone that was limited on which apps it could download.

Well, it seems that the company has shifted gears a little bit. As Brian Dolan from Mobi Health News reported, Happtique is taking the first steps to setting up a certification for mobile health apps.

Happtique, a healthcare-focused appstore, announced plans to create a certification program that will help the medical community determine which of the tens of thousands of health-related mobile apps are clinically appropriate and technically sound. The company has tapped a multi-disciplinary team to develop the “bona fide mHealth app certification program” within the next six months. The program is open to all developers and will be funded by developer application fees.

It will certify apps intended to be used by both medical professionals and patients.

While I think that providing some way for people to filter through the large number of mobile apps, I think certification is a terrible way to go about it. Many people know I’ve written many an article about CCHIT pre-EHR incentive money and how screwed up the CCHIT EHR certification was for the industry. I think it’s just as bad news for Happtique to create a certification for the mobile health industry.

Turns out that Happtique seems to have agreed with this idea back in October 2010 where they said in a MobiHealthNews interview, “We are not in the business of opining whether an app is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ though. That’s not our role. Apple doesn’t do that and others don’t either. If the FDA indicates that an app is a medical device and needs to be regulated, well, that’s a different situation and we can take it out of the store.” Seems they’ve seen a different business opportunity.

They have a couple recognizable names on their board to create their certification including Howard Luks and Dave deBrokart (better known as e-Patient Dave), but I believe they’re going to find that it’s an impossible task. First, because they won’t have the breadth of knowledge needed to create certification requirements for every type of mHealth app. Second, what value will the certification really provide? Third, how do you make the certification broad enough to apply to all 20,000+ apps while still providing meaning to those using a very specific mHealth app? Plus, I’m sure there are many other issues I haven’t thought of yet.

The problem with these certification ideas is that they start with great intentions, but always end up bad.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

10 Comments

  • Up next… consultants, companies, websites, maybe even some apps that helps app developers design their apps to meet the certification requirements of the mHealth app store…and however many additional similar health app certification entities that will inevitably crop up. And then maybe the government will step in and put a handle on this whole health app certification and provide incentives to motivate health app developers to comply…followed by penalties for non-compliance down the road.

  • Well…sort of already happening like that, right? Government pressures EPs, EPs pressure EMR app developers. So along comes Happtique. They inject a layer between the EP and the mobile app developer, but not between the government and any app developer, who must enable MU attestation in order to be a certified app. So Happtique thinks they will create a separate certification for mobile apps. Why does there need to be a separate certification for mobile apps?

  • Scott,
    You described what happened to CCHIT quite well. I imagine this certification could follow a similar path. Talk about the best way to stifle innovation is apply a certification.

  • Heard of Happtique from a CIO at a NYC hospital that was looking to use the service. Looks like Happtique, or its investors figured out there just wasn’t enough of a market (upside potential) with their original model so now turning to certification – plenty of $$$ to be potentially made there if they can prove they are the one-stop shop that all CIOs will turn to.

    Unlikely.

    Looks like Happtique is quickly heading to the dustbin

  • John@Chilmark,
    Thanks for joining the discussion. Don’t underestimate the power of good branding and word of mouth from a few CIOs. If they convince a few CIOs that their certification somehow provides value, then don’t be surprised if they avoid the dustbin and wreak havoc on the mHealth app world like CCHIT did. I hope not, and this post is one way I’m trying to avoid another CCHIT.

  • /begin sarcasm/
    Cool.

    The thing I really love about a Meaningful Use certified EHR is the fact that there must be no requirement (as part of this certification) to generate reports that are of any use…or even correct.

    So I’m quite certain this will be a great certification stamp.

    /end sarcasm/

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