Health apps: a note of caution

There’s a running joke that if you check your symptoms on the Internet, it will probably diagnose you with cancer.

But there seems to be a growing trend that we are starting to rely more and more on digital technology to help us with our health. For example, WebMD last reported an average of 156 million unique users per month – a 33 per cent increase from the previous year.

Health apps (applications that offer health-related services on your mobile phone or tablet) are flooding the market. And the same goes for wearable technology, or ‘wearables’, like the Fitbit, JawBone and most recently the Apple Watch.

One recent study in JAMA Dermatology, which looked at various skin cancer apps, found that three out of the four apps they examined incorrectly classified at least 30 per cent of melanomasas ‘unconcerning’.

The only one that was accurate wasn’t a diagnostic app at all – it helped people with suspected skin cancer by sending a picture directly to a certified dermatologist.

Another study, this time published in the British Journal of Dermatology, examined 39 skin cancer-focused apps and found that none them had been validated for diagnostic accuracy or usefulness by any established research methods.

View the full story here http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/04/24/health-apps-a-note-of-caution/

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