The Not So Healthy “Health” Apps

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During my searches for good mobile apps for self-tracking (e.g, here or here), I often encounter apps that offer to measure mental or physical performance, or diagnose and even treat some medical conditions, while citing questionable scientific theories or methods, or not listing any research references at all. This great article in Washington Post takes a closer  look at the high-tech “snake oil” of XXI centure: health apps.

According to recent study by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, the medical and health apps market is highly unregulated, and this lack of oversight results in both Android and Apple stores flooded by apps that do not work or could even potentially endanger consumers. According to WP, several developers of the apps that made false claims have already been fined or settled out of court. The FDA is drafting regulations on health apps, but this process could take years. Luckily, some private organizations and groups, like Happtique, are taking initiative in evaluating safety and effectiveness of some apps. I was glad to see that one of the apps that I have been using myself, Azumio’s Instant Heart Rate was named reliable.

What do you think? Should health apps (including Quantified Self tools related to health) be regulated by FDA?

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