AHRQ offers advice to developers of consumer health IT apps

How and where consumers will use the app is critical, agency says
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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released a guide for developers of consumer health IT applications, drawing on strategies employed by successful developers in non-healthcare industries.

To prepare the document, "Designing Consumer Health IT: A Guide for Developers and System Designers," AHRQ researchers identified successful consumer IT products, looked at methods employed to develop them, and pulled together best practices and development resources.

The 10 development steps are:

  • Use designers with appropriate knowledge and skills for all phases of product development.
  • Throughout the product development, consider how consumers will be using the product and in what kinds of environments.
  • Include a diverse set of customers when generating new product ideas and evaluating early versions of the product.
  • Combine established design methods with intuition- or innovation-driven approaches to design.
  • Use multiple approaches early to learn about customers and the market.
  • Employ prototyping and pilot testing.
  • Define metrics for success based on the needs of different customer segments.
  • Balance customer needs with product safety and privacy.
  • Build products based on established health data and transmission standards.
  • Market the products and remain responsive to customers.

The guide includes a page of discussion for each step.

Public-health officials and other healthcare leaders continue to explore how health IT apps can help patients interact with providers and improve overall health. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for example, recently challenged software developers to create a mobile app to help underserved and minority women fight and prevent cancer.

The app must be able to communicate with electronic health records as well as with consumers "in different languages and in culturally appropriate contexts."

To learn more:
- read the AHRQ guide (.pdf)

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