May 6, 2014

Mobile Health Apps' Data Bypasses Doctors

Most data from mobile health apps (mHealth apps) does not get into the hands of doctors. Even with the explosion of mHealth and fitness applications, most doctors continue not to recommend mHealth apps to their patients. The number of apps many say that exist and are available in Apple's iTunes store of 43,000 may be over counted. Due to the lack of evidence of the clinical benefits, doctors continue not to recommend them.

The article claims the absence of research for the impact of mobile technologies on health outcome, that doctors are not convinced that patients can change their health behavior or improve disease management by using these apps. As a result of this, doctors show reluctance to embrace mHealth and consumers (patients) are cutting medical professionals out as they pursue mobile technology.

The study discussed in the above article surveyed 1,000 users who use or plan to use health and fitness apps and found that 70 percent of respondents use apps on a daily basis to track calorie intake and monitor physical activities. Only 40 percent actually share their data and insights with their doctors. Thirty-four percent of the mobile health and fitness app users indicated that they would increase their use of apps if their physicians actively recommended them.

Scott Snyder, president and chief strategy officer at mobile engagement vendor Mobiquity says, "Our study shows there's a huge opportunity for medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies and health organizations to use mobile to drive positive behavior change and, as a result, better patient outcome."

Other studies also confirm that physicians have a lot of ground to make up when it comes to gaining credibility in their patients' eyes vis-à-vis mHealth. One study showed that a quarter of respondents trust website apps, symptom check mobile apps, or home-based sign monitors as much as the do their physician. An equal number often use these instead of office visits.

On the doctors' side, excessive consumer trust in mobile technology increases the potential risk for misdiagnosis and mistreatment of disease. Example, several popular smartphone apps designed to evaluate photographs of skin lesions to determine the likelihood of malignancy are not accurate. Three of four apps in the study incorrectly classified 30 percent or more of melanomas as unconcerning.

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