This paper is in the following e-collections/theme issues:

Letters  Mobile Health (mhealth)  Quality/Credibility of eHealth Information and Trust Issues  Quality Evaluation and Descriptive Analysis of Multiple Existing Mobile Apps 

Advertisement: Preregister now for the Medicine 2.0 Congress

Article Thumbnail
Members can download this full article for Adobe PDF Format.
Membership provides unlimited access to all PDF files.
Or, ask your department head to become an institutional member.

For tax purposes please select your country and if applicable state/province of residence:
Buy Now (Pay-per-download for non-members):
Download Price (USD): $22.00

Letter to the Editor

A Systematic Self-Certification Model for Mobile Medical Apps

Thomas Lorchan Lewis, BSc (Hons)

Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom

Corresponding Author:
Thomas Lorchan Lewis, BSc (Hons)

Warwick Medical School
University of Warwick
Gibbet Hill Road
Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom
Phone: 44 7876453511
Fax: 44 2476528375

Related Articles:

(J Med Internet Res 2013;15(4):e89)


smartphone; technology; education; medicine; app; health care; Android; iPhone; BlackBerry; mobile phone; standards

Errol Ozdalga and colleagues recently highlighted the impressive range of roles and uses of smartphones in the medical setting [1]. An important point highlighted and worth developing from this paper is the difficulties associated with accurately comparing and assessing different medical apps for smartphones. This is mainly due to the fact that medical apps are often designed with one particular focus and inherently different interfaces which often make a direct comparison between apps unfeasible. Furthermore, even apps that purport to complete the same task often include extra functionality or features that make direct evaluation impossible. One solution offered by Ozdalga et al is to survey doctors on the perceived impact of specific apps available. However I believe that this is unfeasible given the rate at which the medical app ecosystem is evolving in terms of number, range, and type of app. With thousands of medical apps available, it is highly improbable that a clinician has a working knowledge of the complete range available. As such, any surveys will be subjective depending on the target audience and consequently offer limited utility for physicians and medical students alike. Moreover, surveys regarding specific apps are usually out of date by the time they are published. What is more important, is establishing a systematic method by which medical apps can be compared and their utility for health care professionals validated.


One proposed method to solve this is to develop a set of standard criteria that can be used to systematically assess the utility of a medical app for a health care professional. I believe that the most efficient and effective method should be based on a self-certification system with key criteria that have been adapted from the Health on the Net foundation (HON, [2]). Table 1 shows potential self-certification criteria which medical apps could be reasonably expected to achieve in order to establish the validity of the information contained within the app. The Health on the Net Foundation Code of Conduct (HONcode) for medical and health websites addresses one of Internet's main health care issues: the reliability and credibility of information. It is therefore highly applicable to medical apps that are subject to the same issues.


Using this system, it would then possible to set up a self-certification process where registered developers could highlight the fact that their app conforms to these basic criteria. At the moment, no such organization exists although there is clearly scope for such an entity. With the impending launch of the United Kingdom National Health Service App Store, it appears that there has never been a better time to develop a self-certification model for medical apps.

[view this table]
Table 1. A list of potential criteria based on the HONcode to be used as the basis of a self-certification model for medical apps.


The author of this article is an editor at, an online publication focused on mobile health. This article received no sources of funding or sponsorship and there is no financial disclosure. There were no human subjects involved therefore it was not deemed necessary to seek ethical approval.

Conflicts of Interest

None declared.


  1. Ozdalga E, Ozdalga A, Ahuja N. The smartphone in medicine: a review of current and potential use among physicians and students. J Med Internet Res 2012;14(5):e128 [FREE Full text] [CrossRef] [Medline]
  2. HONcode Operational definition of the HONcode principles. 2012 Nov 21.   URL: [accessed 2012-11-21] [WebCite Cache]

Edited by G Eysenbach; submitted 21.11.12; peer-reviewed by E Ozdalga; accepted 31.01.13; published 24.04.13

Please cite as:
Lewis TL
A Systematic Self-Certification Model for Mobile Medical Apps
J Med Internet Res 2013;15(4):e89
doi: 10.2196/jmir.2446
PMID: 23615332

Export Metadata:
END, compatible with Endnote
BibTeX, compatible with BibDesk, LaTeX
RIS, compatible with RefMan, Procite, Endnote, RefWorks

Add this article to your Mendeley library
Add this article to your CiteULike library


©Thomas Lorchan Lewis. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 24.04.2013.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.