Quality Review and Rating Using the Mobile App Rating Scale

Background: Mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular, with 5.70 million apps available at the start of 2021. Smartphones can provide portable and convenient access to health apps. Here we consider applications for people with one of the estimated 7000 rare diseases, which are defined as having an incidence of

Objective: The aim of this review is to find apps developed specifically for people diagnosed with a rare disease and to rate their quality using the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS). We look at features that meet 6 identified needs of people with a rare disease and make recommendations for future developers.

Methods : Google Play Store (Android) and Apple App Store (iOS) were searched for relevant health-related apps, specifically for rare diseases. The search included the names of 10 groups of rare diseases. App quality was determined using MARS, assessing app engagement, functionality, aesthetics, and insights.

Results: We found 29 relevant applications (out of a total of 2272) dealing with 14 rare diseases or groups of diseases. The most frequently discussed rare conditions were cystic fibrosis (n=6), haemophilia (n=5) and thalassemia (n=5). The most common app features were web-based information and symptom trackers. The mean MARS score was 3.44 (SD 0.84). The lowest scores were for engagement.

Conclusion : Most apps provided factual and visual information, providing self-monitoring tools and resources to help improve interactions during health consultations. The origin and quality of the application varied considerably. It is recommended that developers consider ways to make appropriate apps more easily identifiable to consumers, always include high-quality information, improve engagement, provide qualitative app reviews, and include consumers and clinicians in the design.

Casey J. Nelson