Another health app library shuts, undermined by inadequate data security

NIH health app pilot ends amidst poor data security but where will it go from here?

A two-year effort by the UK’s National Health Service to offer residents access to a library of vetted health apps has ended, undone by a similar data security Achilles heel that undermined Happtique in the U.S.

iMedical Apps notes that the program never exited pilot mode. Between a privacy advocacy group evaluation of half the library’s more than 200 apps and an Imperial College Study. The second study tested 79 apps using made up data. Startlingly, the study revealed that none of the apps encrypted data on the device personal health information. Two thirds of the 35 apps that sent identifying information through the Internet did not use encryption.

It seems like this would be a market opportunity for data encryption that can meet the rigors of healthcare. If lack of manpower is the issue, how about a taxbreak — I recall paying high taxes in England when I lived there, so I’m sure they could get loads of savvy tech geeks to do a better job of evaluating the security setup on these apps.

I know I have written a few stories about companies that specialize in providing encryption tech to apps and devices. Where are they now when the U.S. and UK need them most, I wonder? Maybe they’re off somewhere drinking IPAs or rock climbing. Someone send up the bat signal and get them to help solve this problem.

Happtique entered a new chapter when SocialWellth acquired it for an undisclosed amount. It doesn’t look like the NHS is backing away from developing app libraries either. iMedical Apps pointed out that a library for mental health apps is underway and that it is structured differently from the original pilot. Thank goodness for that.

At its most basic level, all of this serves as yet another reminder that people won’t commit to mobile health apps in the longterm if they don’t have confidence that their personal health information is secure or that they can draw value from them. App developers need to make a stronger push to getting this right for the good of their survival.

 Photo: Flickr user Nick Carter