Smarter Health Care, Or Not?
Would you trust your smartphone with your health?
It seems that some people do, with more and more health-related apps becoming popular. There are now apps available for everything from weight loss to maternity tips. People are using apps like iTriage to check their medical symptoms. There are even apps for sexual health and personal hygiene.
While having an easy app on your smartphone might make it easier to manage what you eat or to track your exercise, it may be going too far to use your smartphone as a substitute for a doctor's visit.
The University of Pittsburgh medical center recently did a study of four smartphone apps that are supposed to help users diagnose melanoma.
Most of these apps work by allowing the user to snap a picture of a mole or skin condition. The app then evaluates the condition and informs the user of whether or not he or she has melanoma. While some apps like these send the picture to a board-certified dermatologist, others do not.
The study found that the accuracy of the apps varied widely, with the worst app providing a correct diagnosis only 6.8% of the time. These apps are not subject to any kind of regulation and usually include the disclaimer that they are for "educational purposes only."
Experts worry that some people may trust their smartphone to the extent that they will put off a regular doctor's visit in favor of a smartphone diagnosis. Because these apps can be unreliable, it could result in the delay of treatment for serious medical conditions.
It is important to note that some amazing smartphone medical technologies are being implemented by medical professionals, including modifications to cell phones that allow them to be used for ultrasounds and as stethoscopes.
However, the average person only has access to apps with potentially dubious diagnostic powers, as many medical apps have not been properly studied or improved upon.
If you suspect that you have a medical condition you should pick up the phone... to call your doctor and set up an old-fashioned doctor's appointment.