This project aimed to test the development of a new, reliable tool—MARS—for assessing the quality of health mobile applications.
The use of mobile applications (apps) for health and wellbeing promotion has grown exponentially in recent years (Riley et al. 2011). The portability of smartphones provides access to health information and interventions at any time in any context. It is increasingly difficult for users, health professionals, and researchers to readily identify and assess high quality apps (Cummings, Borycki & Roehrer 2013).
Existing criteria for the assessment of app quality were categorised by an expert panel to develop the new Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) subscales, items, descriptors and anchors. Sixty wellbeing apps were randomly selected using an iTunes search for MARS rating. Ten were used to pilot the rating procedure, and the remaining 50 provided data on inter-rater reliability.
Explicit criteria for assessing web or app quality was extracted from 25 published papers, conference proceedings, and online resources. Five broad categories of criteria were identified including four objective quality scales: engagement, functionality, aesthetics, information quality; and one subjective quality scale; which were refined into the 23-item MARS.
The MARS is a simple, objective and reliable tool for classifying and assessing the quality of mobile health apps. It can also be used to provide a checklist for the design and development of new high quality health apps.
VicHealth acknowledged the MARS as one the most outstanding projects and campaigns involved in improving the health and wellbeing of Victorians, winning a 2014 Victorian Health Promotion Foundation Award.