How to Choose Health Apps

Health apps (software applications) are one tool that you can use to live a healthier life. There are apps for finding health information, tracking your morning run, talking to your doctor, and reminding you to take your medicine. With so many apps out there, it can be hard to find the right ones for you. This guide will provide some tips on how to select and evaluate mobile health apps.  For specific information about apps for healthy eating and physical activity, please review this tipsheet

  • Where does the information contained in the app come from? – Look for reputable sources of app information. This may be found in the “Description,” but it is often hard to find. Reliable information sources include information written by medical professionals, published studies in peer-reviewed journals, and facts from governments or universities.
  • Who made it? – Look for credible developers and sellers, including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, universities, and hospitals.
  • Read reviews – Customer reviews in app stores (large online collection of apps) allow you to see if users are happy with the app and what problems they have experienced.
  • Check for updates – App developers often update their apps to update information, add new features, and fix problems. An app that has been updated recently, or shows regularly updating has occurred, is more likely to have current information than one that has not.
  • Are the app’s claims realistic? –Does it seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is. Be wary of apps that claim to diagnose, treat, or cure conditions.
  • Do you buy the app or is it free? – Free apps are great but often come with ads or sponsorship that may influence the content.
  • What is the app’s privacy policy? – Information about whom your data is shared with should be explicit in the Privacy Policy, which should be listed in the App Store/Google Play Store and available before downloading the app. For more information about privacy related to apps, please review the Privacy Guide.
  • Who is this app for? – Apps are made for many people including those that work in medicine and ones created for you – the consumer. Generally, apps in the “Health” category are for the consumer and apps in the “Medical” category are for professionals.
  • Try it out! – If you are unsure if an app is right for you, test it out. Many apps are free or offer free versions or trials so you can explore without commitment.

There is no one rule for selecting an app. Using these tips will help you be a more informed and critical consumer. You will need to decide if you like an app and think it meets your needs. Many apps can help you as you work toward a healthier lifestyle but an app is just one tool for helping you achieve your goals. These tips will help you choose a useful, credible app.


Page authored by Lynn Eades, Health Sciences Library at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Last reviewed: December 4, 2018

Last updated January 9, 2019 at 7:16 pm