February 17, 2016

European Commission Forms mHealth Working Group

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The newly formed mHealth working group is tasked with developing guidelines for use in assessing the validity and reliability of data that is collected and processed by health and wellbeing apps. Ultimately, the guidelines will inform European Commission policy with respect to improving the safety and transparency of health information collected by mobile apps.

In April 2014, the European Commission published a Green Paper, which launched a public consultation on the challenges faced by the European mHealth market. The results of the public consultation were published in January 2015. Two open stakeholder meetings—held on 12 May 2015 and 6 July 2015—further emphasized the usefulness of a common mHealth methodological framework.

An important point raised in this consultation process was that the large number of lifestyle and wellbeing apps available—combined with no clear evidence on their quality and reliability—is raising concerns about the ability of consumers to assess their usefulness. This could limit the effective uptake of mHealth apps to the benefit of public health. Health professionals must moreover be confident of the reliability of mHealth solutions before they can recommend their use to patients. To make full use of the advantages offered by mHealth, it is also important to enable data from apps to be linked to electronic health records.

To address these matter, the European Commission launched a public call for expression of interest to join an mHealth working group, which would be charged with producing guidelines to address the safety and transparency of data collected by health and wellbeing apps. The European Commission received 75 applications to join the mHealth working group. Of these, 20 applicants were selected on the basis of their know-how, expertise and collective gender and geographical balance. The list of members includes research organizations (e.g., King's College London), industry representatives (e.g., PatientView Ltd), non-governmental associations (e.g., Digital Health & Care Alliance) and professional associations (e.g., Eucomed).

The first meeting of the mHealth working group is scheduled for early March 2016. It is anticipated that the guidelines will be finalized by the end of 2016.

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