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Despite growing interest from both patients and healthcare providers, there is little clinical guidance on how mobile apps should be utilized to add value to patient care. We categorize apps according to their functionality (e.g. preventative behavior change, digital self-management of a specific condition, diagnostic) and discuss evidence for effectiveness from published systematic reviews and meta-analyses and the relevance to patient care. We discuss the limitations of the current literature describing clinical outcomes from mHealth apps, what FDA clearance means now (510(k)/de novo FDA clearance) and in the future. We discuss data security and privacy as a major concern for patients when using mHealth apps. Patients are often not involved in the development of mobile health guidelines, and professionals' views regarding high-quality health apps may not reflect patients' views. We discuss efforts to develop guidelines for the development of safe and effective mHealth apps in the US and elsewhere and the role of independent app reviews sites in identifying mHealth apps for patient care. There are only a small number of clinical scenarios where published evidence suggests that mHealth apps may improve patient outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


NPJ Digit Med

Publication Date





Public health, Therapeutics