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Why mobile health app overload drives us crazy, and how to restore the sanity

Lex van Velsen12*, Desirée JMA Beaujean1 and Julia EWC van Gemert-Pijnen2

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, P.O. box 1, Bilthoven, 3720, BA, the Netherlands

2 Department of Psychology, Health & Technology, University of Twente, P.O. box 217, Enschede, 7500, AE, the Netherlands

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2013, 13:23  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-23

Published: 11 February 2013



Smartphones and tablet computers have become an integral part of our lives. One of their key features is the possibility of installing third-party apps. These apps can be very helpful for improving health and healthcare. However, medical professionals and citizens are currently being overloaded with health apps. Consequently, they will have difficulty with finding the right app, and information and features are fragmented over too many apps, thereby limiting their usefulness.


In order to combat health app overload, suppliers of apps need to do three things. One, join the open source movement, so that a few apps can work as gateway to medical information by incorporating information from different sources. Two, standardize content, so that the information provided via apps is readable. And third, in order to prevent information overload from occurring within an app, content should be personalized towards an individual’s characteristics and context.


Suppliers of medical information and features need to join the open source movement and must make use of standardized medical information formats, in order to allow third parties to create valuable, mobile gateway apps. This can prevent the occurrence of health app overload. By going along in these trends, we can make health apps achieve the impact on healthcare quality and citizens’ health many of us envision.

Health apps; Smartphone; Tablet PC; Open source; Standardization; Personalization