Medical Apps: so Many Exist - so Few are Reliable

In 2012, there were already 40,000 apps that purported to deliver some form of health or medical information, diagnosis or benefit to their users. The number of such apps made for Apple users alone more than doubled between 2013 and 2015.

There is literally no regulation of medical apps available through Google Play Store or Apple iTunes by any authority for the accuracy, veracity or reliability of the information and data that they provide. Each comes with its own standard that disavows any liability for the information provided.

medical android appsIn fact, some apps that offer basic diagnoses have been described as 'really bad doctors' for the consistency with which they provide inaccurate or completely wrong answers. A minor misdiagnosis may be easily rectified but the potential for serious complications arises when chronic diseases come into play. This was made abundantly clear when an analysis was made of insulin dose calculation apps that were used by both clinics and patients. Results showed that they were seriously flawed, and that they contributed to abnormal insulin dosages in countless patients. Because there is no regulatory authority to control their use, they might very well be continuing to do so right now.

Another app available for Apple devices claims to be able to calculate blood pressure using a smartphone's camera and microphone. However, researchers assert that there is no evidence to support the app creators' claims that the readings will be accurate.

One more app that came under criticism was created for depression and mental disorder patients to help log their moods. Doctors were disappointed that even when a user listed their mood at the worst levels, the app did not offer even basic advice like calling a helpline.

Still, doctors aren't completely dismissive of the entire medical app craze. It has been shown that patients that are more deeply involved in their own treatments tend to fare better. They recommend that patients download apps released by reliable medical institutions, check that it is regularly updated and consult with their GP about its features and limitations before using them.

There are also signs of amateur apps that should raise red flags for an app user. The most obvious are frequent, large and obtrusive ads. Also, the absence of the name of a specific medical authority or institution named as the author, contributor or creator is a serious flaw of a medical app.

There will always be more medical apps claiming to do useful things to get you to download them. Choose wisely between them and do not rely on them solely to make decisions pertaining to your health and well-being.

Alexandr Sedishev