THE PRACTICAL APPS APPROACH
You want to help your patients enjoy their best possible health. And your patients want to feel their best but need persistent ongoing support to effectively engage in their own health care.
Already familiar with virtual banking and shopping, your patients are ready to use digital, mobile apps to monitor and improve their health. They are likely even asking you about apps now.
But there are more than 165,000 health-related apps on the market. How do you know which to recommend or approve for your patient? Which will actually help you better support your patient?
By reviewing and evaluating health care apps, Practical Apps gives primary care providers tools they can use to help their patients better understand and manage their disease. Practical apps is also patient-facing; anyone can visit PracticalApps.ca to learn more about health apps.
We know that there are many low quality apps among the 165,000 health care apps currently available. In fact, only three per cent are associated with health care organizations. But we also know that patients are not only ready to use health care apps, they are asking their doctors for advice now. We want to help family doctors find the apps that work well and we hope to encourage higher quality app production.
Each review is conducted by a family physician with a special interest and/or training in virtual care/health technology. There are 10 physicians on the Practical Apps team of reviewers.
Topics for reviews are selected by the Practical Apps leadership group which includes Dr. Ed Brown, OTN CEO, Dr. Rob Williams, OTN CMO and Dr. Payal Agarwal, Innovation Fellow at WIHV.
Apps are selected for review with a focus on apps available in Canada that relate to Canadian guidelines and, where possible, are Canadian-made. The app selection is based on evidence in academic literature, download statistics from app stores and recommendations from trusted clinical and patient groups. They are conducted based on an evaluation framework.
Reviews will be re-visited over time and updated.
There are limitations to this process. First, as with all reviews, each Practical Apps reflects the opinion of one qualified reviewer, a doctor. Second, we take at face value what is said through the app website and developer-provided documentation. We do not do independent testing to validate claims. Ultimately, the decision to use an app should occur following a consultation between a clinician and the patient with clear discussion of risks and benefits.
App Evaluation Framework
The evaluation framework judges apps on multiple dimensions: features, clinical usefulness, usability, safety, privacy/security and accessibility. It was created using academic literature and feedback from experts in the area of health apps. It has both objective and subjective components. The goal is to generate reviews that are practical, useful and timely.
Longer Term Goals
It is hoped that Practical Apps will create a discussion and community around apps to help promote and support the development of high quality patient-facing apps. Patient and provider feedback on the reviews will be included in the future.
The Fine Print
OTN is making available articles and other information (“Information”) on various health-related apps that may be of value to health care professionals, patients and their caregivers, with respect to a variety of medical conditions.
While OTN and its content providers are endeavouring to provide helpful and accurate Information, the Information is subject to a number of restrictions and provisos, including
- OTN is, at times, relying upon public or vendor-supplied information with respect to the privacy and security of personal health information stored or otherwise made accessible through the applicable app by or on behalf of a patient. OTN has not independently verified any such Information and accordingly the patient’s personal health information may not be as secure, or subject to the restrictions on use or copying, as may be suggested by the Information. Further, the patient’s personal health information may be in a jurisdiction or jurisdictions other than suggested by the Information;
- OTN Information is provided on an “AS IS, WHERE IS” basis without any representation, warranty or condition of any kind, expressed or implied; and
- OTN, and its suppliers, have no liability to you or any third party that may occur from the use of the Information, whether as to type or quantum of damages suffered, including for OTN’s negligence (including gross negligence).
Accordingly, you are strongly advised to independently confirm the accuracy and completeness of any of the Information for your particular uses and purposes, including from a privacy and security perspective.
About OTN and WIHV
OTN brings virtual care innovation to the healthcare system so that the people of Ontario can get the care they need when and where they need it most: at home, in their community or in hospital. For more than a decade, OTN has increased access to health care and education across the province with one of the world’s most extensive telemedicine networks. Working with its many partners and leveraging its unique knowledge of health care and digital technology, OTN addresses challenges by introducing and spreading new ways of delivering care that benefit patients, care providers and the healthcare system. An independent, not-for-profit organization, OTN is funded by the Government of Ontario.
The Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV) aims to be a world leader in the development, evaluation and implementation of evidence-based health system solutions. WIHV is a laboratory that develops and tests new ideas, new programs and new policy approaches in the world of ambulatory care – and then helps to scale them up across Ontario and beyond.