Based on emerging evidence and sponsored by the “Be He@lthy, Be Mobile” World Health Organization (WHO) initiative, a task force created by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) released recommendations and an action plan for the potential of mobile health (mHealth) in allergology. This report was published in Allergy.

The Task Force assessed the state-of-art aspects of and the potential of mHealth tools to improve patient care, specifically evaluating the content, design, user engagement, capacity to prompt behavior change, credibility and accountability, and privacy policies of select allergy-related applications (apps), and included the perspectives of healthcare professionals and patients with allergies.

mHealth recommendations were evaluated for specific areas of allergology (allergic rhinitis, aerobiology, allergen immunotherapy, asthma, dermatological diseases, food allergy, anaphylaxis, insect venom, and drug allergy) in which mobile apps may be used to improve diagnosis, track symptoms, facilitate patient-physician communication, support patient adherence, forecast pollen information, and monitor therapy.

Recommendations for Patient-Physician Relationship

The EAACI recommends healthcare providers keep direct and close contact with their patients, which mHealth technologies may help facilitate; however, care should not be completely replaced by digital technology.

Recommendations for Quality Control

A condition for the distribution of an allergy app should require that it is CE-certified as a medical device. Notwithstanding certification, the physician is still responsible to monitor the use and data output of the app.

Recommendations for Legislation

Apps certified or produced by the EAACI must respect recent data protection rules established by European (and non-European) regulations on mHealth technologies, as well as follow country-specific rules.

Recommendations for Licensing

The EAACI suggests medical licensing systems adapt to the use of mHealth and telemedicine to manage patients with allergic disease remotely, in instances where a general physician or allergy specialist may not be licensed to practice in the area where the patient lives.

Recommendations for Privacy and Confidentiality

The EAACI recommends against the use of allergy apps that are not compliant with European and local legislation on the privacy and protection of sensitive data.

Recommendations for Data Overload

App developers should integrate solutions for managing large data sets collected through mHealth technologies, including the incorporation of data into electronic medical records.

Recommendations for Ethical Prerequisites

The EAACI recommends that app development and performance carefully consider all ethical aspects (apart from legal) in which external persons, companies, or institutions can access user data.

Recommendations for Reimbursement

As the expertise and time spent by physicians assisting patients on the use of mHealth apps are often unpaid, limiting the rate of mHealth adoption, validated mHealth tools used to improve care in clinical practice  should be reimbursed.

Recommendations for Interference With Disease Management Plans

Physicians should be aware of the risk for improper app usage, which can threaten the continuity of care and lead to inappropriate and unguided self-care. The EAACI recommends physicians address this risk with their patients directly, establishing mHealth as a form of blended care within a disease management plan.   

Recommendations for Interoperability

To ensure continuity of care (eg, within hospitals, outpatient clinics, and primary care services), the harmonization and integration of mHealth data into data management systems such as electronic health records are necessary.

Recommendations for Accessibility

The EAACI refers to the experience acquired by WHO programs on how to deal with challenges to mHealth accessibility and digital literacy in low- and middle-income countries.

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Recommendations for Accreditation and Training

Currently, there is no accreditation system or curriculum to educate physicians on the use of mHealth technology. EAACI recommends training healthcare providers on the correct use of mHealth and telemedicine tools as part of their curriculum and to ensure adequate awareness.

Recommendations for Research

Research on the use of mHealth in allergic diseases holds tremendous possibilities. EAACI recommends urgent funding of mHealth research and expansion of research in every area, including epidemiology, surveillance, health economics, public health, clinical diagnosis, and monitoring therapy.

The EAACI Task Force concluded that the field of allergology will be significantly altered by the use of mHealth technology and declared the EAACI would contribute proactively to its development.

Reference

Matricardi PM, Dramburg S, Alvarez-Perea A, et al. The role of mobile health technologies in allergy care: an EAACI position paper [published online June 22, 2019]. Allergy. doi:10.1111/all.13953