Study shows Apple’s iOS medical apps have more medical professional involvement than Google apps

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There are currently thousands of medical applications available for patients, physicians, residents, and medical students. With the rapid increase in smartphone utilization in healthcare, there is an increasing need for quality control to match this growth.

Earlier this month, in the Journal of Thoracic Cardiovascular Surgery, researchers published an article searching the iTunes and Google Play app stores for CT surgery themed medical apps.  They wanted to evaluate the quality of CT surgery specific apps.

Study Objectives:

To evaluate the external validation (peer review, user rating, association with publisher, etc.) methods of cardiothoracic medical apps used by healthcare professionals

Study Conclusion:

No objective rating of apps to guide customers exists. Apple and Google both provide descriptions of available apps to guide consumer choice. Google (playstore) allows customer to sort search results by relevance or popularity (derived by a Google algorithm that includes the number of downloads and customer ratings). Apple used a similar algorithm; however, customer ratings were frequently missing. The focused study found that of the 379 cardiothoracic related medical apps, 6% were associated with a named medical professional, 15% with a publisher or professional society, and 63% with a user rating.

Apple iOS apps have more medical professional involvement. Google apps have more user ratings. While having a user rating or the aforementioned associations is an attempt at providing legitimacy to the various apps, there is still an obvious lack of an external, professional review of the apps entering the market.

Commentary :

Smartphone apps are exponentially growing in the medical field and have increasing functionality for both patients and physicians.  There is a clear benefit that can be derived from using medical apps. While these developments are exciting for the future of medicine, it adds an additional responsibility of the need for a formal review process. This study lends support to the mission of iMedicalApps to review medical apps and  also sheds light on the importance of validating applications.

Methods:

This study focused on the analysis of cardiothoracic surgery themed apps. App sites (Apple and Google) were searched using key words including: cardiothoracic, thoracic, cardiac, heart, lung, cardiac surgery, etc. Each key word was followed by the word “medical” in an effort to yield apps only with this subheading (apps targeted toward physicians, trainees, medical students, etc). Using each keyword, the apps that were found were examined for: user rating, named medical profession, and association with publisher/professional society.

Results:

379 apps were found using these keywords. 6% were associated with a named medical professional, 15% with a publisher or professional society, and 63% with a user rating.

Article name:  Caveats of smartphone applications for the cardiothoracic trainee
Authors: Joy C. E. Edlin, MRCS, and Ranjit P. Deshpande, FRCS
Journal Published:  The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Date Published:  Oct 3, 2013
Citation: J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2013 Oct 3. pii: S0022-5223(13)00953-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2013.08.033.

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