Three of the biggest healthcare trade groups are forming a new alliance to streamline and integrate the development of mobile health apps. The group made the announcement today at the Connected Health Conference in Washington, D.C.

But the group comprised of the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society wont have any enforcement power. Instead the groups new collaborative organizationXcertiawill be dedicated to establish and promote best practices for mobile health apps.

Xcertia will be open to a wide variety of organizations that represent consumers, developers, payers, clinicians, academics and others with an interest in the development of guidelines for mobile health apps, the organization says.

The initiative comes at a time when healthcare mobile apps are proliferating. In just the past year, publishers of mobile health apps have brought to market 100,000 apps, a 57% increase over 2015. This brings the total to 259,000 health apps globally available to consumers, according to the new study, mHealth App Developer Economics 2016 conducted by health research group Research 2 Guidance.

But mobile health app development is not highly regulated. Last year the Food and Drug Administration issued some guidelines for mobile medical apps, but the FDA does not regulate mobile apps. And more providers and health researchers are calling into question the validity of mobile apps.


For example, a study released last week by the University of Michigan Medical School and Brigham and Womens Hospital concluded that many health apps contain serious flaws that undermine their value to consumers.

The researchers studied 137 Apple and Google health apps that help people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and depression. Most apps (121) let people enter health information into their smartphone or tablet, such as a daily blood sugar or blood pressure level or whether they were feeling suicidal. But only 28 of the apps reacted appropriately when the reviewers entered a dangerous value such as high blood pressure, low blood sugar level or a suicidal mood, the survey says.

The goal of Xcertia is to develop guidelines that health app developers can use to build more effective apps. With safe, effective, and reputable mobile health apps, clinicians, caregivers, consumers, and patients can better manage care, and maintain their wellness, says HIMSS executive vice president Carla Smith.

The group has yet to says when it will meet, how often or where. Nor has Xcertia said when it expects to issue guidelines.

But by forming a organization that includes major healthcare trade groups, Xcertia hopes to begin to build industry concensus for more effective mobile app development, says Dr. Eric Peterson, chairman of the American Heart Associations Center for Health Technology & Innovation. “We can add an emphasis on evaluation that is critical for the mHealth space to realize its full potential.”