With more than 300,000 mobile health apps available, it’s tough to know which ones are best, but a University of Alberta researcher has developed a way to help sort through the tangle.
The Alberta Rating Index for Apps (ARIA) is easy to use and offers more personalized, relevant ratings than other rating scales, said Peyman Azad Khaneghah, who created it as his Ph.D. thesis in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.
“Existing app quality rating scales are either too complex or don’t include all relevant criteria,” said Azad Khaneghah, an occupational therapist who is often asked by patients about the best apps to use.
He is currently working to get ARIA publicly accessible on a website for this fall so people may be able to use it to measure the quality of their health apps.
Used for everything from monitoring blood glucose and sleep patterns to providing health advice, mobile apps can be low-quality, not useful and even unsafe. They’re also poorly regulated, he said.
“Unless an app claims it is for diagnosis or treatment, or can replace an already-approved medical device, it’s not required to be approved by any regulatory body. The makers can say an app is not a replacement for professional health intervention, and this one line gets them off the hook so they don’t have to be approved. We don’t know which ones are good or bad.”
Some apps have poor graphics, crash frequently, make anecdotal claims not backed by research or provide bad advice to users, he suggested.
Azad Khaneghah created ARIA after studying several existing app rating scales and finding them lacking in several areas, includingprivacy and security.
“None of them measured the compliance of an app with required privacy policies or measured whether an app is actually secure