Untested mHealth apps proliferate, but few good ones work well

Andrew Litt, MD | ComputerWorld | December 11, 2013

There are more than 43,000 healthcare apps available through the Apple iTunes App Store. That sounds like a wealth of useful apps, but the truth is that only a handful of them are actually being used. According to a survey published in October 2013 by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, most have been downloaded less than 500 times, and very few offer robust functionality. Worse, many offer information to patients that is inaccurate or unproven. Worst of all, some apps that are designed for clinical use provide clinically inappropriate/inaccurate advice to physicians.

Currently, the FDA does not regulate consumer medical apps, so, like the supplement industry, it’s a buyer-beware situation. Without rigorous clinical trials, there is no way to know which, if any, of these apps will actually improve health outcomes. Since few of these apps have been tested in clinical trials, their efficacy and safety are largely unknown.

Fortunately, in September 2013, the FDA announced that it will regulate non-consumer medical apps that have the potential to harm patients...