The Internet and mobile technology has prompted a new generation of digital health interventions that leverage websites and mobile apps to promote positive health behavior change. It is estimated that over 100,000 mobile health apps are available for download on mobile electronic devices, with functions ranging from health education and self-diagnosis to medication reminders.
As a disruptive innovation in healthcare, the digital health market continues to grow at an outstanding pace. In her Message from the CEO, Madeline Bell, CEO of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), announced CHOP’s investment in digital health as an innovative way to connect with patients and families.
However, limited rigorous, scientific evaluation of these applications provides little evidence of their usage, safety and effectiveness for providers and patients alike. In October 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidance on the regulation of mobile medical devices, which include some medical apps. This guidance emphasized the need for further research and evaluation of current and forthcoming products within the expanding digital health field. The FDA’s call to action prompted the DHI team at CHOP to engage with healthcare, research, and technology industry stakeholders to build the resources and knowledge necessary for greater accountability in digital health, and ultimately enable more positive health outcomes.
The Digital Health Initiative (DHI), led by Linda Fleisher, PhD, MPH, was established at CIRP in Spring 2013 and engages with investigators and practitioners throughout CHOP and the CHOP Research Institute to enable an innovative, yet accountable, digital health revolution.
DHI Approach to Digital Health Evaluation
The Digital Health Initiative (DHI) is taking a systematic approach to digital health intervention development and evaluation. This four-pronged approach includes:
- bringing together experts across disciplines and industries to solve major health problems utilizing modern technology
- identifying and sharing evidence-based best practices in app development and evaluation
- creating digital health interventions and refining them through agile development processes and usability testing
- building innovative technology and tools to simplify rigorous, yet pragmatic, health outcome evaluation of digital health applications