Mobile health apps: unreliable

Unknown-1KEY TAKEAWAY: Mobile health app regulation is lagging the pace of innovation which could harm consumers.

Major changes in the healthcare system set in motion by the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, coincided with the proliferation of smartphones. From 2013 to 2015, the number of health and fitness apps available on Apple’s mobile operating system increased by 106%, according to one report.

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Although some health apps,  such as those that perform EKGs or measure blood glucose levels must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before reaching the market doctors for the most part are not sold.  It has been this author’s experience that HCP’s prefer to conduct their own tests rather than use data from health apps for diagnostic criteria.

Of the 376 iOS apps:

  • 24 (6%) appeared to have limited engagement beyond traditional media
  • 66 (18%) were not relevant to the search condition
  • 33 (9%) had poor ratings or reviews, 63 (17%) were last updated prior to 2014
  • 29 (8%) were otherwise not assessed to be useful.

Of the 569 Android apps:

  • 89 (16%) had limited engagement
  • 56 (10%) were not relevant to the search condition
  • 8 (1%) had poor ratings or reviews, 200 (35%) were last updated prior to 2014
  • 64 (11%) were otherwise not assessed to be useful.

Human hand checking the checklist boxes

What will it take to make health apps more useful?

1ne: Developed with the same criteria as prescription drugs with clinical proof that they help patients and that patients will use them as instructed on a regular basis.

2wo: Usability testing to ensure they are patient friendly.

3hree: Proof that data collected by mobile apps are clinically significant.

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