JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2022 May 3;10(5):e31102. doi: 10.2196/31102.
BACKGROUND: Patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) frequently need long-term medical treatment. Mobile apps promise to complement and improve IBD management, but so far there has been no scientific analysis of their quality.
OBJECTIVE: This study evaluated the quality of German mobile apps targeting IBD patients and physicians treating IBD patients using the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS).
METHODS: The German Apple App Store and Google Play Store were systematically searched to identify German IBD mobile apps for patient and physician use. MARS was used by 6 physicians (3 using Android smartphones and 3 using iPhones) to independently assess app quality. Apps were randomly assigned so that the 4 apps with the most downloads were rated by all raters and the remaining apps were rated by 1 Android and 1 iOS user.
RESULTS: In total, we identified 1764 apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. After removing apps that were not related to IBD (n=1386) or not available in German (n=317), 61 apps remained. After removing duplicates (n=3) and apps for congresses (n=7), journals (n=4), and clinical studies (n=6), as well as excluding apps that were available in only 1 of the 2 app stores (n=20) and apps that could only be used with an additional device (n=7), we included a total of 14 apps. The app “CED Dokumentation und Tipps” had the highest overall median MARS score at 4.11/5. On the whole, the median MARS scores of the 14 apps ranged between 2.38/5 and 4.11/5. As there was no significant difference between iPhone and Android raters, we used the Wilcoxon comparison test to calculate P values.
CONCLUSIONS: The MARS ratings showed that the quality of German IBD apps varied. We also discovered a discrepancy between app store ratings and MARS ratings, highlighting the difficulty of assessing perceived app quality. Despite promising results from international studies, there is little evidence for the clinical benefits of German IBD apps. Clinical studies and patient inclusion in the app development process are needed to effectively implement mobile apps in routine care.