A systematic review of quality assessment methods for smartphone health apps

Telemed J E Health. 2015 Feb;21(2):97-104. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2014.0088. Epub 2014 Dec 3.


Introduction: There are large numbers of health-related applications (apps) available in various app stores for many smartphone devices. Consequently, increasing numbers of articles are attempting to evaluate the content and the quality of health-related smartphone apps for specific health conditions. The aim of this article is to describe and summarize the methodologies used to determine the quality of health-related apps targeting health consumers and to propose a set of criteria for evaluating the quality of smartphone health-related apps.

Materials and methods: In 2013, literature searches were performed using Medline and CINAHL, and we included all articles that had the aim of assessing the quality of health-related smartphone apps. The assessment method used in these studies was summarized and scored using a set of quality criteria developed for this study.

Results: From 606 articles generated by the search, only 10 met the inclusion criteria. Based on our quality criteria, the mean score was 5.05 out of 8 (range, 2-7). Eighty percent of the studies did not identify the app store country in which the apps were found. Forty percent of the studies did not clearly mention whether they only had assessed the app description or had downloaded the app content for evaluation. Sixty percent of the studies did not provide a list of the apps they had evaluated. Overall, we identified six evaluation methodologies used to assess the quality of health-related apps described in RESULTS.

Conclusions: This article provides a summary of currently used methods for assessing the quality of smartphone health-related apps and proposes a set of criteria to enable future studies to consistently review health-related app quality in a standardized manner.

Keywords: apps; consumers' health; mobile health; public health; quality assessment methods; smartphone.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications / standards*
  • Mobile Applications / trends
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / methods
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / standards*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / trends
  • Smartphone / standards*
  • Smartphone / trends
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation
  • Telemedicine / standards*
  • Telemedicine / trends