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Assessment of mobile health apps using built-in smartphone sensors for diagnosis and treatment: Systematic survey of apps listed in international curated health app libraries

journal contribution
posted on 02.11.2020, 00:00 authored by C Baxter, J-A Carroll, B Keogh, Corneel VandelanotteCorneel Vandelanotte
Background: More than a million health and well-being apps are available from the Apple and Google app stores. Some apps use built-in mobile phone sensors to generate health data. Clinicians and patients can find information regarding safe and effective mobile health (mHealth) apps in third party-curated mHealth app libraries. Objective: These independent Web-based repositories guide app selection from trusted lists, but do they offer apps using ubiquitous, low-cost smartphone sensors to improve health? This study aimed to identify the types of built-in mobile phone sensors used in apps listed on curated health app libraries, the range of health conditions these apps address, and the cross-platform availability of the apps. Methods: This systematic survey reviewed three such repositories (National Health Service Apps Library, AppScript, and MyHealthApps), assessing the availability of apps using built-in mobile phone sensors for the diagnosis or treatment of health conditions. Results: A total of 18 such apps were identified and included in this survey, representing 1.1% (8/699) to 3% (2/76) of all apps offered by the respective libraries examined. About one-third (7/18, 39%) of the identified apps offered cross-platform Apple and Android versions, with a further 50% (9/18) only dedicated to Apple and 11% (2/18) to Android. About one-fourth (4/18, 22%) of the identified apps offered dedicated diagnostic functions, with a majority featuring therapeutic (9/18, 50%) or combined functionality (5/18, 28%). Cameras, touch screens, and microphones were the most frequently used built-in sensors. Health concerns addressed by these apps included respiratory, dermatological, neurological, and anxiety conditions. Conclusions: Diligent mHealth app library curation, medical device regulation constraints, and cross-platform differences in mobile phone sensor architectures may all contribute to the observed limited availability of mHealth apps using built-in phone sensors in curated mHealth app libraries. However, more efforts are needed to increase the number of such apps on curated lists, as they offer easily accessible low-cost options to assist people in managing clinical conditions.

History

Volume

8

Issue

2

Start Page

1

End Page

10

Number of Pages

10

eISSN

2291-5222

Publisher

J M I R Publications

Additional Rights

CC BY 4.0

Peer Reviewed

Yes

Open Access

Yes

Acceptance Date

16/12/2019

External Author Affiliations

Queensland University of Technology

Author Research Institute

Appleton Institute

Era Eligible

Yes

Journal

JMIR mHealth and uHealth