When it comes to choosing a health app, patients and providers alike face many challenges. With over 309,369 health apps on the market today—and more being developed every day—it can be difficult to know which ones are good choices. Online reviews may be helpful, but can they be trusted? Our health is important; shouldn't we rely on hard data instead? That's where TherAppX and AppGuide come in.
AppGuide is a third-party library that helps patients and providers make informed decisions about which health apps to use. This platform is fueled by a rigorous, evidence-based approach called TherAppX Review (TherAppX inc. is the organisation behind AppGuide).
But how exactly does the TherAppX Review process work?
In this article, we'll take you behind the scenes to show you how we ensure that only the best information makes it onto our platform.
How do we stay on top of things?
You may think that curating a list of almost 310,000 apps is a daunting task, but that’s not all! Dozens of "health and wellness" apps are added to the Google and Apple stores every day, and 14% of existing apps will be updated in the next 3 months.
How do we stay on top of this? In response to this challenge, TherAppX has developed a highly efficient system that relies on a combination of automated processes and human-led curation. It collects 36 data points for each app at the breakneck speed of more than 2000 every day and makes them available for free on AppGuide.ca.
This system, TherAppX Review, automatically extracts data from app stores on the basic characteristics of the apps, such as the price and available languages, as well as other elements that be used to assess quality. Human reviewers then take over and scan additional online data sources to complement this first harvest. The process is highly standardized, consistent and reproducible because it is based on objective data.
Screening for relevance
The goal of AppGuide is to help patients and health professionals make better decisions when looking for apps for specific health conditions. However, not all health and wellness apps target actual conditions, such as anxiety or migraine. For example, many health apps are designed to help users manage their gym memberships. Others facilitate conversations between patients and health professionals through telehealth platforms. These apps are not considered in scope or "relevant" for inclusion in AppGuide. Therefore, the TherAppX Review process begins with a combination of AI algorithms and human scrutiny that screens apps for their relevance, prior to formal data collection.
As of March 2023, TherAppX Review considers that a bit more than 13,300 apps target a health condition and are relevant for inclusion in AppGuide.
Collecting the data
Once an app is deemed relevant, it is assessed for each of the 36 data points that are outlined here. Data is meant to inform two aspects of the apps:
App characteristics such as manufacturer name, last update, covered conditions and main features. These are summarized at the beginning of each AppGuide Trust Report.
App quality and scores such as the presence of peer-reviewed literature or the compliance with a security standard. Each criterion provides one point towards a cumulative score that is converted into a letter rating according to four domains: clinical robustness, simplicity, security and privacy.
It is important to note that all data is obtained from objective, public, and reliable sources. They are not based on the qualitative judgment of our analysts and can therefore be verified by anyone. To save time and energy, TherAppX consolidates all of this information for you in one user-friendly platform. This process differs significantly from online user reviews which are solely based on subjective experiences and can be biased. What's more, most reviews do not consider aspects of data privacy and security, which remain important factors in selecting an app.
How to interpret scores
Trust scores range from A to E. They can be viewed as an indicator of confidence or trust in a certain aspect of an app. For instance, if an app has a grade A Security score, this means the patient or health professional can be reasonably confident that their data is safe. However, we should keep in mind that there is no 100% guarantee of safety and that TherAppX did not perform a full security audit of the app.
Conversely, if an app has a score of E for Evidence and endorsement, this means that there is significant uncertainty about the ability of the app to deliver the benefits it claims. It doesn't mean that the app will not work and that all users will be unsatisfied. The app may work wonderfully! Instead, users should be aware of this uncertainty and pay close attention to the outcomes they experience since effectiveness was not demonstrated and thus results may not materialize.
Apps with low levels of risk (such as manual monitoring apps) can be safely trialed even if some scores are low. Users should simply bear in mind the limitations and move to an alternative app if they do not reap the expected benefits. In this scenario, scores could be used to prioritize candidate apps to be trialed.
The Trust Report
All information relevant for an app is assembled in the AppGuide Trust Report. This report is free to access and can be shared with anyone. It contains the following sections:
The App Summary with screenshots, a description of the app and an overview of the features, language and country availability, the list of targeted conditions and the various letter scores. Key published literature is also listed. The summary can also contain featured materials such as training videos and technical documents.
The full Trust Report that contains an assessment and explanation of all features and quality criteria for the app. If the app is offered on both Apple and Android platforms, a trust report is available for each.
A process developed for your needs
The TherAppX Review process is a transparent, efficient and trustworthy system for collecting key information and assessing the quality of health apps. It relies on objective data to screen apps for relevance and assess them for quality, allowing users of AppGuide to get a good understanding of what the app does and how it may benefit them. Information is displayed in a clear layout that is both easy to navigate and rife with useful knowledge.
We hope that TherAppX Review and AppGuide will gain your trust and become your go-to source of reliable information on health apps. It's your health and you deserve only the best!
Your health care professional can help you choose
Feeling confident is important. Get all the essential information about health apps by talking to your healthcare professional.
AppGuide provides reliable information about mobile health apps that allows patients and healthcare professionals to make informed, shared decisions about using a health app to track health status or act on your priority health goals.