How Xcertia plans to introduce standards for mobile health apps

By Jonah Comstock
Share

Xcertia, the new standards body for mobile apps that launched late last year at the Connected Health Conference, held a meeting at HIMSS to explain more about the organization's approach and to extend a plea for more industry voices to join the membership-based organization. The founding members include the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, HIMSS, and DHX Group.

DHX Group, led by founder David Vinson, is a key part of the collaboration despite having quite a bit less name recognition than the other three founding members. DHX has been involved in most of the major app curation efforts over the years, launching SocialWellth and acquiring the assets of -- and recently relaunching -- Happtique.

"If you learn from the lessons of those early pioneers, those organizations like my own, we were early but we certainly weren’t wrong," Vinson said. "Because now it seems to be the new movement that we are all sitting here together, both domestically and internationally, who are focused on developing curation principals on bringing apps together for the consumer or patient. The timing seems to be right now to have the industry coalesce around a vision."

Xcertia wants to solve the same problem Happtique did: Help consumers know which health apps to use and help doctors know which apps to prescribe. But rather than building a bespoke app store or a certification scheme, Xcertia's approach is to bring as many industry stakeholders as possible together and create a robust set of standards.

And standards won't just be about one thing. Xcertia is currently forming working groups to develop different standards for data privacy and security, clinical effectiveness, safety, usability, interoperability, and other categories. In areas where those standards already exist, they'll work with existing standards bodies to build on their work rather than starting from scratch.

"One of the important things about standards is, while you as an organization might not have everyone participating, by getting the standards out there, by getting them in play, organizations have a baseline of ‘This is what I have to develop’," Chuck Parker, the interim director of Xcertia, said. "It’s an important first step."

Once the standards are written, Xcertia will pursue a multichannel approach to make sure they are well-known and followed. That includes working with third parties to develop certifications based on those standards, and reaching out to consumers in a number of different ways.

"[The first way we'll reach consumers] is to directly work with those stores," Parker said. "You create a brand identity, an Xcertia brand, so an individual can go to a Google Play or iTunes store and search for an Xcertia-based app. And we’ll work with those organizations to find a way to accurately display that. And the second is from a clinical side, you’re going to get a choice from your physician who says ‘I want you to use these sorts of apps because these are the ones that are now certified.' You’re going to see that coming from employers and insurers as well. ... We’re not going to reach every consumer immediately, but we hope to reach them over time through a multi-channel approach."