Over the last few years, the number of medical applications for mobile phones or health apps has increased exponentially. Thus, in 2017, it is estimated that there are nearly 200.000 health apps on the market.
They are related to technological solutions that monitor data such as blood pressure, the steps we take, the minutes we run, our pulse, the calories we ingest and even whether we sleep well or badly. There are also mobile devices that can be synchronised with other devices such as a calculator of the levels of blood glucose.
Four years ago, the FDA published its guide on medical applications for mobile phones aimed at manufacturers. The regulatory agencies take into consideration aspects which could present a risk to users of a particular product; in the context of health apps, on the one hand, this refers to applications that function with a regulated medical instrument (for example, medical imaging) and on the other, to applications that function as a medical device (for example, ECG electrocardiograms for cardiovascular patients).
But what happens with the remainder of medical apps? The Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AQuAS) has worked on a proposed theoretical framework to assess medical apps. It is important to identify what scales can be useful when assessing a health app in terms of scientific evidence, safety and aspects of privacy.
HTA agencies can play an active role in assessment as well as in the development of technological solutions. The role of the AQuAS is worthy of mention in its pilot experiences in different projects of connected health: PEGASO, centred on the promotion of healthy lifestyles among adolescents, DECIPHER, as a comprehensive solution to facilitate the geographic mobility of patients with chronic diseases and m-Resist, centred on schizophrenia and patients who have resistance to treatment.
In addition to these experiences, the AQuAS has recently signed an agreement of collaboration for the design and development of the mobile application Human-Castle, aimed at professionals and citizens. A delegation of Japanese health professionals from the company Kikkoman has been on an extended visit to the AQuAS with this objective in mind.
“It has been 25 years since Barcelona shared the human castle phenomenon with the rest of the world at the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. It is a historical coincidence that coincides with the birth of technological assessment in Catalonia two years later, in 1994. We have a considerable challenge ahead that could mean a change of paradigm, both sustainable and scalable.”
“If we bring all knowledge together and join forces, the probabilities of raising a human castle successfully will increase.”
These are two of the highlights of a brief article published in The Economist on this emerging Catalan-Japanese initiative which will probably become a reality in the setting of the upcoming Summer Olympics in 2020, officially known as The Games of the XXXII Olympiad, a sporting event which will take place between 24 July and 9 August, 2020, in the city of Tokyo.
It concerns a multidisciplinary and inclusive project that highlights the strength of the human castle phenomenon, Catalan architecture applied to the computing architecture of technological solutions and the methodology of assessment.