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Mobile Health Security Stressed by European Commission

By Vera Gruessner

- Mobile health security and privacy regulations are truly needed for mHealth apps and other devices throughout this particular market. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may need additional time to fully address the security risks of mobile health applications, the European Commission is moving toward a Code of Conduct for mHealth apps.

Mobile Health Security

During the eHealth Week 2015, stakeholders came together to discuss mobile health security and begin initiating work toward developing standards and policies toward mHealth tools. The conference had a total of 70 attendees ranging from healthcare professionals and academics to public authorities and ICT industry workers.

Along with addressing mobile health security and privacy, the topics of safety and transparency as well as Internet startups access to the market were discussed. Essentially, mobile health security and privacy were regarded as vital, as citizens’ data needed to be protected when collected through mHealth apps.

The mobile health sphere within the United States would benefit from developing policies toward improving mobile security as well as privacy of app-related consumer data. It is clearly beneficial to public health to develop industry-wide standards similar to what is being considered within Europe.

“The European Commission presented their recently started initiative on drawing up an industry-led Code of Conduct on mobile health apps, covering the topics of privacy and security. The objective of this code is to foster citizens' trust in mHealth apps, raise awareness of and facilitate compliance with EU data protection rules for app developers,” a report about the European Commission’s industry-wide standards stated.

“Furthermore, the safety and quality of lifestyle and wellbeing apps was discussed and how to best address these issues. The on-site survey revealed that stakeholders identified lack of clinical evidence as the main issue as regards to safety, quality and reliability of health apps, followed by misleading claims on the purpose and function.”

To address some of these problems, the regulatory bodies decided that guidelines or standards for quality criteria were necessary when implementing lifestyle or wellness mobile applications. The barriers facing web entrepreneurs were also considered including a lackluster and fragmented legal framework, the ongoing interoperability challenges, and open platforms.

Based on a survey taken by the conference participants, ensuring safety, mobile health security and transparency is the most vital parts of the “mHealth uptake.” When it comes to a major issue of mobile health security, reuse of data by a third party was cited as the biggest problem. Addressing privacy and security is vital, but it is also important to realize the overall benefits of mobile and telehealth technologies.

“Widespread telehealth use can increase care access and improve care quality,” National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo stated in a HealthITBuzz article. “Remote monitoring can allow a care team to monitor an individual’s health status while she is in the comfort of her home, improving the individual’s care experience. Mobile health apps can remind an individual to take his medication. Granular information on community health indicators can inform targeted initiatives by innovators from various sectors.”

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