Health apps have been around for more than 10 years and several of them are available on smartphones, making them easy to access and use. These apps aim to encourage people to adopt healthy behaviors ranging from weight loss to physical activity and to help patients to manage conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
A team of medics has split on the benefits of health app. While one expert argues that health apps have the potential to make a broad impact on the health of the general population, another explains that there is not enough evidence to support such claims and suggests that health apps may even be harmful.
Iltifat Husain, editor of iMedicalApps.com, said, "Some have been shown to improve health outcomes and have great potential to reduce morbidity and mortality. Two randomized controlled trials that have demonstrated that weight loss apps on traditional personal digital assistants increased compliance and improved weight loss when compared to traditional programs. Despite no evidence of harm, there still may be drawbacks of using health apps and research has demonstrated some conflicting results. For example, research has shown that the fitness apps 'Fitbit' and 'Jawbone' accurately count users' steps and physical activity, but results did not find improved outcomes or exercise rates. Many apps have not been tested and may not be useful or effective. The US Food and Drug administration only regulates apps that turn smartphones into medical devices so industry can sell untested apps or make unvalidated health claims."
In a second article, Des Spence, a general practitioner, said, "Most health apps are mostly harmless and likely useless. The rise of apps used alongside wearable devices that monitor heart rate, blood pressure and etc. can ignite extreme anxiety and medical harm through over-diagnosis of health conditions. Medical technologies are already overused for magnetic resonance imaging and blood tests and people should be skeptical of more medical technology."
The study is published in the British Medical Journal