ACP, ATA, ORCHA announce new framework supporting health app safety

The American College of Physicians, the American Telemedicine Association and the Organization for the Review of Care and Health Applications announced a new framework this week aimed at helping healthcare professionals and patients make informed decisions about digital health tools.  

The Digital Health Assessment Framework will help analyze technologies including mobile apps and web-based tools used by professionals and consumers.  

“ACP’s collaboration on this project is an important step forward in identifying and creating digital health tools that are valuable and safe for our members and patients,” said Dr. Ryan D. Mire, ACP president, in a statement.  


As noted on the framework’s website, more than 86 million people in the United States currently use a health or fitness app.   Yet the field of health apps is often an unregulated one, say the organizations.  

Using existing U.S. regulations – along with several leading international standards and frameworks, such as ISO 82304-2 in Europe, Digital Technology Assessment Criteria and NICE evidence standards framework in the UK, and DiGA in Germany – the Digital Health Assessment Framework aims to support the adoption of high-quality digital health technologies.  

It comprises four main components: data and privacy, clinical assurance and safety, usability and accessibility, and technical security and stability.  

“There are literally hundreds of health apps and devices for patients and clinicians to choose from, and our goal is to provide confidence that the health and wellness tools reviewed in this Framework meet quality, privacy and clinical assurance criteria in the U.S.,” said ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson in a statement.  

For next steps, ACP says it is launching a pilot test of a library of health apps reviewed against the framework, which will be updated regularly to reflect changes in clinical practice, the latest guidelines and stakeholder feedback.  

“Leveraging the clinical expertise of ACP members, the technology expertise of the ATA members, and ORCHA’s experience in assessing apps to create libraries of high-quality apps, this pilot test has the potential to address the needs of many stakeholders,” said Mire.  

“We look forward to achieving our joint goal through the pilot test to determine how the library can be useful to physicians in recommending high-value digital health tools to their patients, and what other barriers to wider adoption of digital health tools may exist,” Mire continued.  


Where security and privacy are concerned, policymakers have noted that laws such as HIPAA do not necessarily adequately cover modern technologies.  

Earlier this year, Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, introduced the Health Data Use and Privacy Commission Act, which would start the process of bringing health data use and privacy policies up to date.  

That bill is currently in committee. In the meantime, some federal agencies have warned health apps that they must notify users of data breaches or risk a hefty fine.  


“Digital health technologies can offer safe, effective, and engaging access to personalized health and support, and provide more convenient care, improve patient and provider satisfaction, and achieve better clinical outcomes,” said Johnson.   

“The ATA is pleased to be collaborating with ATA members, healthcare stakeholders, the American College of Physicians, and ORCHA, a trusted partner for healthcare systems and technology companies, to develop foundational criteria for assessing digital health technologies in the U.S.,” she added.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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