Putting Solid Science Behind Digital Health Interventions

Jan 3 2014

Putting Solid Science Behind Digital Health Interventions

The Internet and mobile technology have prompted a new generation of digital health interventions that leverage websites and mobile apps to promote positive health behavior change. It is estimated that more than 40,000 mobile health apps are available for download on mobile electronic devices, with functions ranging from health education and self-diagnosis to medication reminders. The mobile health app market continues to grow at an outstanding pace, and questions remain about how it will be regulated for consumers.

However novel and promising these applications appear, few have undergone rigorous, scientific evaluation to see if they actually work and are safe and effective for providers and patients. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released guidance on the regulation of mobile medical devices, including some medical apps. This FDA guidance emphasizes the need for further research and evaluation of current and forthcoming products within the expanding digital health field.

The FDA’s call to action prompted experts at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at CHOP to engage with software engineers and mobile app developers to build the resources necessary for greater accountability in digital health, and ultimately enable more positive health outcomes as applied to injury issues.

CIRP’s new Digital Health Initiative takes a systematic approach to evaluating digital health interventions. The approach includes building innovative technology and tools to evaluate the health outcomes of digital health applications; using CIRP's multidisciplinary knowledge to train others to evaluate digital health interventions to achieve certain health outcomes; bringing together experts across disciplines and industries to solve major health problems; and creating digital health interventions and refining them through usability testing.

Linda Fleisher, PhD, MPH, a prominent researcher in health communications and mobile health, is leading the Center’s new line of digital health research. CIRP presents a Q&A with Dr. Fleisher to discuss her vision for the Digital Health Initiative and how CIRP is working to enable an innovative – yet accountable – digital health revolution.

Learn more about this exciting initiative from our friends at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention.