There’s little evidence that mHealth apps are effective

  • Out of the hundreds of thousands of mHealth apps on the market, the effectiveness of only 22 has been evaluated in the last decade, per a study published in Nature.
  •  mHealth platforms could cause more harm than good to providers and payers that choose to use them to improve consumer health.
  •  JMIR published a meta-analysis revealing that while fitness apps modestly increased physical activity, the average step count between app users and nonusers was nonsignificant.
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Apple watch study is moot

  • The Apple Heart Study, conducted by Stanford University researchers and sponsored by Apple, evaluated the ability of the Apple Watch to detect atrial fibrillation, a common heart disorder also known as A-fib, in an astonishing 400,000 participants.
  • The study was not a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of medical research.
  • It’s a purely observational study designed to see whether the Apple Watch’s heart pulse monitor can identify people who have a-fib. 
  • A leading cardiologist told me “the study is really moot and doesn’t change my views on the Apple watch for patients”
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The digital health ​market scam

  • igital health global venture capital broke records again in 2018 with 698 deals raising a total of $9.5bn.
  •  Funding for the digital health sector continues to rise, at a 32% increase year-over-year – a pace that will be difficult to maintain this funding pace going into 2019 unless there is “a clear exit path for investors,”.
  • In the United States, digital health companies raised close to $7 billion in 2018 with the remaining $2.5 billion coming out of other countries.
  • Most doctors say they have not recommended any general health and wellness apps or wearables to their patients. (Source: Kantar)
  • For medical-grade devices, the results are similar, with 70% of doctors saying they have not recommended medical-grade web-connected devices to their patients. (Source: Kantar).
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Surely there are better uses of Medicare dollars than Apple watches

  • Apple has been in talks with at least three private Medicare plans about subsidizing the Apple Watch for people over 65 to use as a health tracker.
  • Insurers are exploring ways to subsidize the cost of the device for those who can’t afford the $279 price tag.
  • It’s the segment of health insurance with the highest dollar revenue and margin per member
  • But can seniors really understand how to use the watch with updates?
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TeleHealth bust or the future?

  • 82 percent of U.S. consumers do not use telehealth.
  • In 2016, researchers posing as patients turned to 16 different telemedicine apps to diagnose skin issues. The results? Some of the online doctors misdiagnosed conditions like syphilis, others prescribed unnecessary meds, and two of the sites used doctors who aren’t licensed to practice in the state the patient was located.
  • Even in the digital age, a lot of people simply want to see their doctor in person. They’re not Luddites. But sick, vulnerable people often need in-person reassurance from another human being in the room. A smartphone app simply won’t cut it.
  • Still telehealth is going to find a niche.

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mHealth: The next Theranos?

  • The Journal of Medical Internet Research says “Although mHealth is growing in popularity, the evidence for efficacy is still limited,” wrote the study’s corresponding author, David Novillo-Ortiz, MLIS, MSc, PhD.
  • “More than 100,000 (health) applications are now available in the leading app stores, and the assortment is constantly growing,” says a BAEK study that was discussed at the congress. “But only a fraction of the programs are certified as medical products.”
  • John Torous, MD, a researcher and psychiatry resident at Harvard University, said “We have little evidence about the risks or benefits of smartphone use in clinical care,”
  • “The problem with these apps is they’re so new and novel; it’s probably going to be hard establishing a standard of care, or what a reasonable doctor would, and would not do when using these products,” says Nathan Cortez, a professor and associate dean for research at SMU Dedman School of Law.

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