Currently submitted to: JMIR mHealth and uHealth
Date Submitted: Mar 18, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Mar 18, 2020 - May 13, 2020
(currently open for review)
Recommendations for a mobile health research platform from a developer's perspective: Survey Study
The use of mobile phone apps and connected wearable devices offers a great opportunity for health research. In order make healthcare data accessible across organisations, physicians and patients, recent platforms like Apple HealthKit, Google Fit or Samsung Health allow to securely store and share health data among smartphone apps with the consent of the user. These mobile health records can be combined with software platforms, like ResearchKit and ResearchStack to simplify the development of research apps by providing ready-made common use cases while being compliant to regulations in data protection and health research. Even though a plethora of such platforms exist, none of them can be considered as a widely established tool yet.
To provide recommendations for new platforms through the analysis of the limitations posed by existing platforms and by identifying common needs and established practices in mHealth development.
We first analyse the state of the art of mobile-health development in research settings, including existing tools and frameworks to support it. To complement the scant literature, we disseminated a survey among mobile-health researchers and developers to understand best practices, what type of tools are used and which would be desirable.
Related to current practices and unmet needs in mHealth development we identify the following themes: a) costs and resources, b) usability and context awareness, c) middleware and software architectures, d) multi-platform support, e) mobile connectivity, f) reliability and testing, g) data protection and regulatory compliance and h) interoperability. In relation to existing platforms we identified these common shortcomings: 1) poor regulatory compliance, 2) lack of documentation, 3) low maturity, 4) poor usability (from the developer’s perspective) and intuitiveness. Our survey received 28 very varied responses, which identify a core of concerns shared for most of the reported projects and not entirely met by the current offer of development platforms. Based on these results, we provide recommendations for future mobile-health platforms, particularly focusing on multi-operating system support, integration with existing health records, regulatory compliance, involvement of stakeholders, modularity, extensibility and overall quality of the code base.
Our recommendations intend to guide the development of a platform to be used as a common tool for future research in mobile-health.
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