Insulin dosing apps are unreliable and prone to error

A recent study led by the Global eHealth Unit at Imperial College London has found that the majority of insulin dosing apps are unreliable and put patients at risk of getting incorrect doses of insulin.

Huckvale and colleagues found 46 insulin dose calculator apps in the app stores. When they evaluated these apps, they found some pretty concerning patterns:

  • Only 30% of apps documented their calculation formula
  • 91% lacked validation techniques for numeric inputs (i.e. making sure values were reasonable)
  • 67% carried a risk of inappropriate dose recommendations due to their calculations not matching the stated formula, failure to update appropriately to input changes, or violating basic clinical assumptions
  • 24% crashed or froze unexpectedly

They also found a striking lack of transparency around these apps. For the apps that didn’t document an insulin formula, investigators contacted developers – and more than half of those contacted didn’t even respond.

And even with these issues, they found that the majority were paid apps. They also found that nearly 40% had not been updated in years; in other words, orphaned apps.

These are serious problems that should raise concerns for any healthcare professional. Insulin dosing is a high risk task – mistakes can have major consequences. And based on these findings, most insulin dosing apps on the market put patients at risk for errors.

Posted in Apps, Patient Safety, Software Development, Technology, Uncategorized, Validation