Friday, November 21, 2014

At the intersection of wellness, health and accessibility

Two events took place in London last week, both discussing mobile apps. The first one was a workshop on health apps to meet patients’ unmet needs organised by PatientView. PatientView carried out a survey among international patient organisations about which features their ideal app would have to have. In the following discussions, it became evident that many of the wished for features are already covered by a variety of available apps: simple tracking and monitoring of the patients' condition, analysis of influencing factors, education on the illness, practical support for managing the condition. However, the most strongly emphasised feature - the ability to share the data with the treating physician and the attending nurses - is missing today.

Another largely debated aspect was not so much the security of the data as rather the authority over the data - patients want to have the power to choose what kind of data they are sharing and they insist on the right to know what the data is used for. Interestingly, the aspect of these apps needing to be accessible was only mentioned as an afterthought and did not trigger any further debate. 

What about prevention? 

An interesting point was made by a representative of the International Self-Care Foundation. He underlined the need for an app that helps people maintain their health rather than help them cure or treat disease. The International Self-Care foundation has a seven pillar model based on health-literacy, self-awareness, physical activity, healthy eating, risk avoidance or mitigation, good hygiene and rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics and medicines.

Given the popularity of lifestyle and self-monitoring apps, a more sophisticated app based on this model might indeed be able to help maintain and manage health in many people, as well as help people that already have a health condition to achieve or maintain the best possible level of wellness. 

Apps World Europe - accessibility not even on the sidelines 

The second and large-scale event last week in London around apps was the Apps World Europe exhibition and conference. It was disappointing to see that among the 300 exhibitors there was only one single accessibility app on display - Equaleyes which we are happy to have listed on GARI. Two days of presentations and panel discussions with 250 speakers - yet no mention of accessibility.

Even the panel discussion around Examining the importance of performance - improving the quality of app delivery through pre and post launch management strategies only focussed on data flow, server communication and developing across platforms, screen sizes and device generations, but did not at all consider the thousands of users that are never reached when the app is not accessible. This shows that the lack of awareness about the importance of accessibility in app development is still the biggest hurdle today.