Fixing The Background Technologies On Which Health Apps Depend

Andy Oram | Rock Health | April 3, 2014

Developers are flocking to health IT with the laudable goals of making a difference in people’s health (and earning some money in the process). The complex and balkanized field presents numerous barriers to entrepreneurs breaking into the space,   Here are a few of the dilemmas that health reformers face, and that bedevil efforts to provide useful apps and medical devices:

A lot of developers are offering apps or fitness devices. But without rigorous testing (double-blinded experiments) the FDA probably won’t let apps or devices be used for medical purposes, and insurers won’t cover them. Although people obsessed with good health are buying fitness devices and reporting that self-tracking is changing their lives, the people who need intervention the most (such as obese smokers with diabetes) aren’t widely using digital health products.

A full-press clinical research effort on every app or device would be absurd and would shut down innovation. But it’s not right for device manufacturers to bypass the FDA entirely, either. The FDA’s current position is reasonable, if vendors can understand it, but perhaps we can find a more modern approach to testing apps and devices. Crowdsourcing and data sharing may be the key to trusting apps and devices as well.