May 30, 2024

mHealth Apps: Beware of Snake Oil

By Anna M. Gard, FNP-BC

With 247 million mobile phone users worldwide expected to download a health app in 2012, mHealth needs a watchdog, akin to Consumer Reports for apps, to “out” the hucksters making false and potentially harmful health claims.

This Washington Post Report highlights the worst medical apps, those making false and potentially harmful claims.  The FDA recently released guidelines on mHealth technologies in effort to balance the potential for innovation with patient safety in the rapidly changing mobile space.  The guidelines suggest three types of applications should require FDA oversight: a mobile application that acts as an accessory to a regulated medical device, turns a mobile gadget into such a device or makes suggestions regarding a patient’s diagnosis or treatment.

Happtique, an mHealth application store and medical app management solution, plans the launch of a “Good Housekeeping seal of approval” app certification service that evaluates safety and effectiveness of apps based upon standards that address operability, privacy, security, and content issues for medical, health and fitness apps.  iMedicalApps  is a site that regularly reviews apps targeted for clinicians.