Smartphones and computing technology are becoming more advanced each waking second, so it’s hard to keep up let alone integrate these things into healthcare properly. New apps are on the market nearly every day, all looking to make a life-changing impact one way or another. And yet, when we hear about apps used to help diagnose health conditions such as melanoma, blood pressure, or even mental health physicians are right to be skeptical. New healthcare smartphone apps highlight some of the issues facing the medical community in terms of how information is made available to both doctors and patients, as well as the risks of paging Dr.Google…
New Healthcare Smartphone Apps | At What Risk?
Although we rely on our smartphones for just about everything, at what point do patients need to seek the advice of trained professionals? Take the case of an app designed to analyze clinical images of melanoma. The JAMA Network conducted a study and determined that the app had an error rate of 30 percent. Yet, it remained on the market due to its ability to fit a narrow definition of a so-called medical device. As we’re seeing in many different industries reliant on digital information, the widespread presence of misinformation isn’t just a political issue but rather a problem that could have serious public health consequences.
Now, to supplement these apps we’re seeing all sorts of wearable devices like Fitbits, smart watches, etc., and studies by the NYU Langone Medical Center are indicating that 58 percent of smartphone owners have downloaded a health-related app.
It’s clear that general consumers and patients alike are continually seeking ways to monitor their own health and access information regarding medical conditions through modern technology. Yet, with so much misinformation found throughout the internet, how can unnecessary risks for things like misdiagnosis, false reassurance, delayed treatment, and even death be avoided? This could all come down to additional studies on how new healthcare smartphone apps and online health resources can be regulated and controlled for the quality of their information and results.
What Can Doctors Do?
The one thing that new healthcare smartphone apps have yet to accomplish is collecting specific health maintenance behaviors. For example, asking about the intimate details of diet, exercise, use of supplements, and other things is key information that apps and smartphones have yet to pick up on accurately. Engaging with patients on a human level still trumps anything we’ve been able to accomplish through basic consumer apps and WebMD combined. Although the main issue here is that doctors need to understand the ways patients are accessing health information through the internet and their phones. It may soon become a routine question to ask, “what new healthcare smartphone apps have you utilized lately?”
Still, it’s important to note that it’s going to be nearly impossible to keep up with each new piece of technology or software. These things will continue to supplement healthcare. Some of the most promising technology is in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it may soon be able to diagnose anything from mental health to cancer.
It wasn’t too long ago that physicians served as the primary collectors of privileged health information. Now, these collectors are not even human beings but small devices, software, and neural networks. At this point, consumers and patients are not likely to give up the convenience of technology for traditional medicine, so it really amounts to these two ends of the spectrum meeting in the middle. For now, doctors will remain the main sources for diagnosing, treating, and preventing most health conditions, although the future is promising an absolute restructuring of how, where, and when this all will take place.
Have you had any experiences with patients and their new healthcare smartphone apps? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!