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New paper proposes 7-step method for evaluating commercial health apps.

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New paper proposes 7-step method for evaluating commercial health apps.

A recent publication in BMJ Open by researchers from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Greater Manchester (ARC-GM) and the University of Manchester unveiled a new 7-step method and supporting framework for evaluating commercial smartphone health apps.


There are many smartphone health apps on the market already used by patients, the public and healthcare professionals; however, existing published reviews primarily focus on apps developed and used by researchers, overlooking the evaluation of commercial mobile health (mHealth) apps.


This work, which aimed to address the lack of consistent methods for conducting systematic reviews of mHealth apps, used case studies of existing reviews conducted by the research team in addition to reviews published in key medical informatics journals to provide guidelines for future evaluations.


The research team introduced the novel TECH approach to develop review questions and the eligibility criteria, which considers the Target user, Evaluation focus, Connectedness and the Health domain.


The research paper outlines seven key steps for conducting rigorous health app reviews:


  1. writing a research question or aims,
  2. conducting scoping searches and developing the protocol,
  3. determining the eligibility criteria using the TECH framework,
  4. conducting the final search and screening of health apps,
  5. data extraction,
  6. quality, functionality and other assessments, and
  7. analysis and synthesis of findings.


The next step is to develop reporting guidelines for systematic health app reviews.


Norina Gasteiger, ARC-GM funded PhD fellow, lead author on this paper, and the recent winner of the 2023 Postgraduate Research Student of the Year Award for the School of Health Sciences at The University of Manchester commented:


“This work has been a collaborative effort, with involvement by digital health researchers and academics at the University of Manchester who are experts in conducting health app and systemic literature reviews. We are excited to be progressing the method and ensuring that future app reviews are performed in a standardised and reliable manner. We hope our work will guide best practice and demystify the process.”


Read the paper in full:


Published: 26/06/2023

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