There isn’t always an app for health

KEY TAKEAWAY: Personal anecdotes of experiences with a particular drug or other form of treatment may have little relevance to whether that treatment fits another person . The truth is that some patients delay health care for too long, or opt out of evidence-based treatment in favor of something of dubious benefit that’s talked about in social media or other, less than credible, website.  Apps and the Internet are no substitute for a trained medical professional.

Yesterday I talked to an Oncology thought leader who said “he was very concerned about the state of online health”.  He proceeded to tell me about the inaccurate health information he was finding online in social media and even top rated websites health websites.  “What worries me so much is that this information is being misused and could result in delayed treatment for some cancer patients, which could mean the difference between life and death”.

We like to talk about “empowered patients” but can information online really compensate for a trained medical professional?   The answer to that is no. Supporters of digital health will respond with “we’re helping people become active participants in their health care” but how many people are relying on digital health instead of trained medical professionals?

One of the key takeaways that continues to surface in all the research that I have been involved in is that most online health seekers feel overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of health information online. It’ really left up to them to determine what’s credible and what’s garbage.  Apps, that help people manage chronic health problems, can be useful, but what happens when someone relies too much on an app at the expense of going to see a trained medical professional?

May be the FDA or even the AMA should review online health information to determine what’s credible and what’s not instead of leaving to online health seekers who really don’t have the expertise to make that determination.  I have continually urged pharma clients, when developing content, to get though leaders to write content which could be very useful to website visitors but to date they just don’t seem to care.

Last week, in research, I listened to a lot of online health seekers who told us that they were essentially “scared” of all the online health information.  As one person said “we keep hearing about phony news stories and bad information on Facebook. How am I supposed to be able to distinguish what’s true versus what’s not true?”  Welcome to “you’re on your own” in the world of online health care.

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