Report: MyFitnessPal, Weight Watchers, Lose It! are top apps recommended by docs

By Jonah Comstock
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HealthTap appsPalo Alto-based HealthTap has released a ranking of health, wellness, and medical apps based on the public endorsements of thousands of doctors who use the HealthTap AppRx platform. Although not every doctor in HealthTap's network participated and those that did didn't see all the apps, the system is designed to give each app equal exposure and to minimize bias on the part of physician reviewers.

The top three consumer-facing iOS apps recommended by doctors were MyFitnessPal, Weight Watchers, and Lose It! (in that order), while the Android list had Weight Watchers in the number one spot, followed by White Noise Lite and Lose It! once again at number three. White Noise Lite came in 4th on the iOS list, and The American Red Cross First Aid app and RunKeeper rounded out the top six and top five, respectively.

While HealthTap did not disclose the total number of physicians who have endorsed an app yet, the top few consumer-facing apps each had a couple hundred endorsements from individual physicians.

"We took all the apps available in both app stores, iOS and Google Play, and brought it to the platform and we created a dashboard for [doctors] to review and preview the apps — see screenshots, the description from the developer," HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman told MobiHealthNews. "If they’re interested, it’s very easy for them to download the app. Most importantly, the doctors had to actually come to the conclusion that the app is good enough for them to recommend in public. It’s not like a secret voting or something like a survey doctors answer anonymously. They need to actually publicly commit to their vote and not only that, but actually recommend it not only to their patients but to the entire public. Because we make the votes available to everyone."

An algorithm makes sure to present all apps to the same number of doctors, Gutman added, and treats paid and free apps the same. He said HealthTap considered working with developers to make paid apps free for physician reviewers, but ultimately decided that would run too high a risk of biasing the reviewers.

In addition to the overall list, HealthTap split the lists into 30 different categories. One subcategory, apps for doctors, was removed from the overall rankings entirely as it was skewing them unfairly away from data that would be helpful to consumers. Gutman says the lists within each category are likely to be a lot more meaningful for consumers than the overall list.

"A pregnancy app and a running app and a diabetes management app really have nothing to do with one another," he said. "So the decision to really break it down to the components and the subcategories that are actually meaningful is to avoid the confusion of putting together two apps that are -- yes it’s an app and it’s vaguely in health, but that’s all they have in common."

A few findings from the categorical rankings: Azumio's Glucose Buddy topped both Diabetes App lists; Fitbit was the most popular fitness and exercise app for iOS, but was edged out by Azumio's Instant Heart Rate on the Android list; and BabyBump Pregnancy topped both lists for pregnancy and fertility apps.

Epocrates was far and away the leader in apps for doctors recommended by doctors. The rest of the top five for iOS was Epocrates BMI tool, the CDC Vaccine schedule, the CDC app, Critical Care ACLS Guide, and Micromedex Drug Information. For Android it's the CDC Vaccine Schedule, the Critical Care ACLS Guide, Micomedex Drug Information, and Calculate from QxMD.

"I think apps are fantastic for helping people do more about their health than they used to do before," Gutman said. "And I think in order to make it mainstream, in order to convince the doctor community to 'prescribe' apps as often as they prescribe medication, we need to bring the entire doctor community and a lot of users into the game."