Mobile Health Apps Fall Short for Patients

Highly rated or often recommended apps fall short for people with chronic conditions, says a new study from the University of Michigan Medical School.

A team of researchers reviewed 137 of the most highly rated or often recommended mHealth apps marketed for people with chronic conditions and high health costs. Findings show these “best” apps have their shortcomings.

While almost all of the apps (121) enabled users to enter health information in their phone from their day, including daily blood sugar or blood pressure level, only 28 of the apps issued appropriate reactions when reviewers entered dangerous values, such as a sky-high blood pressure, low blood sugar level or suicidal mood.

Many apps allowed users to share health information with others through insecure methods, with half the apps sharing information via email and 17% through text messages. Only one app enabled users to share data directly into their electronic health records.

“Do we really want our mHealth apps to be passive observers, or should we expect that they do more than that, and model themselves after crisis hotlines with specific action plans?” asks first author Karandeep Singh, MD, MMSc, an assistant professor of learning health sciences at U-M.

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