The mHealth app industry faces some major challenges with data security, user privacy and regulatory concerns often cited as top worries. Despite this, consumer downloads of mHealth apps hit 660 million in 2013, according to a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics,
But, as an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association points out, the number of viable, safe and beneficial mHealth apps is a big unknown; many apps could potentially be problematic for users and caregivers.
“There are tons and tons of apps and very little in the way of guidance for physicians or consumers on how to separate the wheat from the chaff,” Aaron S. Kesselheim, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, tells JAMA. That’s because many apps have not been verified or proven to be safe and useful by either a regulatory organization or even the app creators, according to the article.
The paper goes on to cite a case-control study that assessed diagnostic accuracy of four apps designed to help separate benign from malignant skin lesions and found three of four apps misidentified 30 percent or more of melanoma lesions as being benign.