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Association of American Medical Colleges Tomorrow's Doctors, Tomorrow's Cures®

There’s an App for That…and Soon It Will Be Certified

AAMC Reporter April 2013

—By Eve Glicksman

Can an app a day keep the doctor away or the medical student well trained? Mobile app tools are becoming the new normal for doctors and patients, according to health care industry forecasters.

One of the most popular free apps for medical students and physicians is Epocrates, according to Nadine Dexter, M.L.S., director of medical informatics and the Health Sciences Library at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. Epocrates features a comprehensive database of medications that allows users to review possible contraindications, identify pills, find generic substitutes, and check for any interaction risks.

Thousands of mobile health (mHealth) apps already are on the market and can be downloaded by anyone with a smart phone or tablet. Even health insurers have expressed interest in covering the cost of apps that can help people manage chronic conditions or complex medication regimens. The challenge is that there is no assurance that any of them meets basic quality, safety, and reliability standards.

“Medical educators have been looking for guidance. It’s the wild, wild West when you go to an app store,” Dexter said.

The Food and Drug Administration reviews a small subset of apps that meet the specific definition of “medical device,” but that still leaves the large majority of health and medical apps unregulated.

Enter Happtique, a mobile health solutions company of the Greater New York Hospital Association. On the frontline for curating health-related apps, Happtique developed the first-of-its-kind Health App Certification Program (HACP) to help health care providers and consumers identify apps that deliver secure, credible, evidence-based health and medical content. The AAMC has agreed to be Happtique’s premier content reviewer for medical education apps starting within the next few months.

“The involvement of the AAMC will provide added assurance that Happtique-certified apps have undergone testing and review by experts in the field,” said Sandra C. Maliszewski, M.S.N., J.D., M.B.A., director of the HACP.

Once a medical education app has passed Happtique’s privacy, security, and operability reviews, the AAMC will enlist an appropriate clinical specialist to review the content. The reviewer will use a pass/fail decision making process based upon standards adapted from the rigorous MedEdPORTAL® publications review process. Apps passing all four reviews will receive a certification seal indicating they have been vetted by trusted sources. This certification will be good for two years.

To facilitate the collaboration and refine the review process, the AAMC established the Happtique Mobile Content Review Work Group.

“We’re raising the bar for app content development and helping our members identify high-quality medical education apps,” said work group member Michael Saleh, AAMC senior specialist in business development.

Other members of the group include Dexter; Warren Wiechmann, M.D., M.B.A., faculty director of instructional technologies and assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine; Chandler Mayfield, director of technology enhanced learning at University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine; and two other AAMC staff members.

April 2013 Home


“Medical educators have been looking for guidance. It’s the wild, wild West when you go into an app store.”

—Nadine Dexter, M.L.S.


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