Doctors, nurses and patients are increasingly using medical apps to support a range of health conditions including: smoking cessation, weight loss and diet as well as gathering useful data on treatment adherence and disease management. This development has occurred over a number of years and can be seen through the gradual increase in published articles on medical apps between 2002 and 2011 (Table 1).
|No of Articles||1||3||2||7||10||18||19||23||30|
More recently the market has rapidly evolved with a noticeable increase in the literature between 2012 and 2013(partial) (Table 2).
|No of PubMed articles||57||103|
This recent growth is probably due to a number of factors including: the increased popularity (within the last 3 years) of smartphones and the proliferation of health and medical related apps on Apple’s AppStore and Google Play. These factors, together with the convenience of smartphones (always on and always with you) makes the use of health and medical apps easy as well as beneficial, important issues where compliance may be a factor.
Although this growth is likely to continue as more medical/health apps are developed, remote patient monitoring becomes more acceptable and analytical devices are integrated with smartphones, the technology is not without its problems.
In the absence of any regulatory body overseeing the content and quality of these apps, little is known about the possible dangers associated with their use. Breaches of patient confidentiality, conflicts of interest and malfunctioning apps could all negatively impact on patient care. How to minimize these issues will be the subject of a future posting.