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Health apps: can we trust them?

Health apps can we trust them

One in ten French people use health-related applications or connected objects … whose effectiveness or even safety is poorly controlled. The Order of Doctors advocates for public labeling. The developers, grouped within the France eHealth Tech association, would prefer a simple guide of good practices. We gathered their point of view.

Industry & Technologies: Today there are nearly 295,000 health apps in the world, not always very well differentiated from those dedicated to “well-being”. Would not it be better to identify those with a real medical ambition?

JACQUES LUCAS, Vice President of the Council of the Order of Physicians : The boundary between health and well-being is tenuous, the field of health can begin as early as prevention or education. In the field of well-being, the reliability of the app does not engage the security of the user. It is not the same if it is a medical application.

GUILLAUME MARCHAND , President of France eHealth Tech : Applications, available online on “stores”, are categorized by publishers. Some of them are bad, sometimes on purpose: it is easier to reach the top 10 in the medicine category, less dense, than in the wellness category. But the bottom line is that the indication is clear to the user. Is it an app to lose weight quickly – fitness so – or a nutrition app in a gastrointestinal pathology?

Only 24% of the designers of the most downloaded applications in France declared in 2015 to have involved a health professional. In order to protect the consumer, is it necessary to create a public label?

GM I do not think we need to focus on the certification aspect. Relevant apps today, there are few. Of the 1,200 auditioned by the private certifying body DMD Santé since 2012, only 31 would be compliant with the law and really useful to patients. In order not to block innovation, let’s start by educating the market and delivering a guide to good practices for developing compliant apps, as the Haute Autorité de Santé does.

JL Today, anyone can upload a medical or wellness application without any scientific authority validating its relevance. To ensure their reliability, the Council of the Order of Doctors wants the establishment of a public label that would guarantee the confidentiality of data, the computer security, software and hardware of the application, and its scientific validation . In order not to constrain innovation, the State would not be directly labeling, but would transmit a specification to accredited certification bodies, public or private, with effective control of its compliance. Such a label would allow the doctor to safely prescribe the certified applications and guide the user in his own choices.

The CNIL reported in 2014 that only 25% of mobile applications provided good quality information on the use of personal data. Should we worry?

GM No, the future European regulation further strengthens already strong personal data protection. Moreover, I doubt the reality of a market on these data today. The number of people who are overweight or have high blood pressure is known. Who would want to buy this information?

JL Yes. Although the use of personal health data is highly regulated in France, this is not the case for the well-being sector. But some apps fall under one or the other, according to the custom. Today, most apps are free. How does the publisher enter into its funds if it is not for commercial use of the data collected?

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