A report by The New England Center for Investigative Reporting - published by the Washington Post – is headlined, “Many health apps are based on flimsy science at best, and they often do not work.”
“When the iTunes store began offering apps that used cellphone light to cure acne, federal investigators knew that hucksters had found a new spot in cyberspace.
“We realized this could be a medium for mischief,” said James Prunty, a Federal Trade Commission attorney who helped pursue the government’s only cases against health-app developers last year, shutting down two acne apps.
Since then, the Food and Drug Administration has been mired in a debate over how to oversee these high-tech products, and government officials have not pursued any other app developers for making medically dubious claims. Now, both the iTunes store and the Google Play store are riddled with health apps that experts say do not work and in some cases could even endanger people.
These apps offer quick fixes for everything from flabby abs to alcoholism, and they promise relief from pain, stress, stuttering and even ringing in the ears. Many of these apps do not follow established medical guidelines, and few have been tested through the sort of clinical research that is standard for less new-fangled treatments sold by other means, a probe by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found.”
- There’s an app for anything that ails you, even if it doesn’t work (wcvb.com)
- Medical apps may actually hurt health instead of helping (reporternews.com)
- Calling shenanigans on mobile health apps that make false claims (medcitynews.com)
- FTC finds popular kids apps collect data without telling parents (mercurynews.com)
[Reblog from Taubman Health Science Center Newsblog]
Cancer Tracking Goes Mobile
July 12, 2012 by irinazey
The sun is definitely shining brightly outside – do you know how your skin is affected?
University of Michigan Medical School and University of Michigan Health System have developed a free app to photograph your skin and monitor any suspicious moles or lesions in an effort to make skin cancer screening cheaper, faster, and more convenient for the average person.
Screenshots from UMSkinCheck
Under the supervision of lead developer Dr. Michael Sabel, UMSkinCheck walks you through a full-body skin self-exam, lets you track moles/lesions for change over time, and set up notification reminders for recurring self-exams. It also comes loaded with information on sun safety and a risk calculator to help determine individual risk based on personalized data.
On a related note, from A blog I follow ,As Our Parent Age- Timely Topics for Adult Children
“Yet another friend has skin cancer. She always used sun blocking lotions, but also enjoyed staying out in the sun for long periods. (I have her permission to write this much.)
My friend tells me that she now understands that sun blocks, no matter how effective or powerful, are only one piece of a skin protection puzzle. Staying out of direct sunlight during the the most intense times of the day is another large puzzle piece.”
This is a good blog to follow, I can’t express it any better than what the author states on the about page
”As Our Parents Age is my effort to record the experiences of loving and living with aging parents, but it is also a vehicle to help my husband and me understand and learn more about aging parent caregiving. I am highlighting interesting issues, identifying high quality web resources, and sharing memories. Other posts are on topics that my husband and I would have liked to know more about at the beginning of our foray into the aging child – aging parent phase of life.”
by ROB LAMBERTS, MD(KevinMD.com)
“…Now add to this a technology which gives us the ability to see all of those undiagnosed ear infections, and we have to muster even more willpower to resist the urge to treat them all. This is the same problem as we have encountered with PSA testing: be careful gathering data you don’t know how to handle.
But even without considering this important objection to improved data-gathering, there is another problem which stands in the way of this type of technology: reimbursement. It sounds great to enable people to avoid visits to the doctor’s office by having tools that previously were only accessible at an office visit. It sounds like a very good way to save money and wasted time spent in waiting rooms with outdated magazines. But this technology presumes that doctors will be willing to act on this information without seeing the patient in the office. It presumes we will be willing to offer free care. If the time I spend sifting through patient-collected data rises exponentially, the payment I get for that time cannot remain at the present level: zero.
If our goal (as it should be) is to spend less money on unnecessary care, we will get to it much faster if we somehow give proper incentive. Our encounter-based payment system stands in the way of any progress in this area. The only way most of us get paid is to see people and deal with problems. This makes doctors reluctant to offer any care outside of this setting, and puts undue pressure on intervention (to justify the encounter to the payors). Until our system puts more value on avoiding unnecessary treatment and keeping people well we will be stuck in this struggle between patients who want to avoid seeing the doctor and doctors who can’t afford to let patients do that…..”
- Skin cancer app tracks changes head to toe (futurity.org)
- Checking For Skin Cancer? There’s An App For That (detroit.cbslocal.com)
- Skin Cancer Self Exam By Use Of Mobile App (medicalnewstoday.com)
- UMSkinCheck – Encouraging you to Take Naked Pictures of Yourself! (coolest-gadgets.com)
- Screen yourself for skin cancer with this free iOS app (news.cnet.com)
- UM Offers New Skin Cancer Mobile App (detroit.cbslocal.com)
- Screen yourself for skin cancer with this free iOS app (news.cnet.com)
- Illness Detection Add-Ons – The ‘UMSkinCheck’ App Can be a Lifesaver (TrendHunter.com) (trendhunter.com)
- Skin Cancer Symptoms (cancercenter.com)
- Skin Cancer Risk Factors (cancercenter.com)
Caffeinated drinks such as coffee and soda are the pick-me-ups of choice for many people, but too much caffeine can cause nervousness and sleep problems.
Caffeine Zone software app developed by Penn State researchers, can help people determine when caffeine may give them a mental boost and when it could hurt their sleep patterns. The software takes information on caffeine use and integrates it with information on the effects of caffeine to produce a graph of how the caffeine will affect the users over time. …
…The app is available on iTunes for free with advertisements and for purchase without ads. It only works on Apple devices – the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
For information on how to select health apps (with links to select health apps), please visit my Health Apps Web page
- Best time for a coffee break? There’s an app for that (eurekalert.org)
- Best time for a coffee break? There’s an app for that (esciencenews.com)
- How to optimize your caffeine intake: there’s an app for that (boingboing.net)
- Time for Coffee? Ask Your Smart Phone (psychcentral.com)
- Optimizing Your Caffeine Intake With an App (science.slashdot.org)
… has just launched a new medical apps forum for the medical community to discuss mobile apps and technology.
- Apple Makes Finding Medical Apps for Professional A Little Easier (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- Health and Wellness Information and Tracking Apps (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
From the Krafty Librarian post Apple Makes Finding Medical Apps for Professional A Little Easier.
Last month I completed an online medical library class on mobile resources and apps.
The class, Get Mobilized – MLA, is over. However the content is still online and free to all.
These examples included calorie counters, symptom checkers, and record keepers.
I included these and others in the course at my Web site Health and Medical Resources and News Selected by Janice Flahiff.
Look for them in the Health Apps section.
- Top Health and Fitness iPhone Apps (by Art Writ, MD)
- mobilehealth news (an industry blog)
- [Free Webinar] What Makes a Health App Effective?
- When is a Mobile App a Mobile Medical App? (projecthealthdesign.typepad.com)
- The Growing Hipness of Mobile Wellness (futurelab.net)
- Should Mobile Medical Apps Require FDA Approval? (informationweek.com)
- Sign of the times: Johns Hopkins shuttering its medical library (zdnet.com)
Currently health apps do not have to pass any standards for scientific validity. In fact, some could be harmful!
This article gives an overview of current regulation and evaluation efforts by the government, medical societies, and others.
Excerpts from the Health Care Blog item Are Health Apps the Cure for Anything That Ails You?
With about 9,000 consumer health apps currently available in the iTunes store, it seems like almost all smart phone users can download their way to better health these days.
“Apple isn’t testing apps for their scientific validity,” said Dan Cohen, a social worker who has reviewed apps for their effectiveness.
Given the stakes, it’s no surprise that the government is starting to regulate these smart phone applications. Just last month, the Federal Trade Commission brought its first cases against the makers of two health apps. Each claimed to cure acne with colored lights emitted from cell phones.
“Smart phones make our lives easier in countless ways, but unfortunately when it comes to curing acne, there’s no app for that,” the FTC chairman said, when announcing the crackdown. The agency cited the makers of AcneApp, which had sold about 11,600 downloads of its $1.99 app, and the developers of AcnePwner, which sold 3,300 downloads of its 99 cent app.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, proposed regulations this summer for apps that could be considered medical devices. The agency, which sought comments on its proposals until Oct. 19, may focus on apps that are accessories to established medical devices used by doctors, such as smart phone apps that can display X-rays.
It could also regulate apps that transform smart phones into medical devices by using sensors or other attachments. Already, the FDA has approved gadgets that turn smart phones into blood pressure-monitoring cuffs and pocket ultrasound machines.
Apps that connect to consumer devices, such as blood glucose meters, may be regulated, too, if the apps display or analyze the meters’ readings, the FDA says.
The majority of health apps will almost certainly not be considered medical devices and will escape government scrutiny. But some app developers are voluntarily going through the laborious FDA clearance process, in part, to convince the medical community that their products have real clinical value.
WellDoc, a Baltimore-based health care company, got FDA approval last year for its DiabetesManager, which provides automated diabetes coaching for patients. The app also was tested in a randomized clinical trial conducted by the University of Maryland’s medical school, which found that patients had a statistically significant improvement in their blood glucose levels after using the app for a one-year period.
Scientists have found flaws with other apps.
When a George Washington University professor conducted the first content analysis of behavior-modification apps, she discovered that few of the 47 smoking-cessation apps available in 2009 followed evidence-based health guidelines. Lorien Abroms, a public health professor, concluded that the apps had “serious weaknesses” because they did not link to quit lines or clinics or suggest ways for smokers to get social support from family and friends.
- Smartphone Apps Can’t Cure Acne (bellasugar.com)
- FDA Proposes Health ‘App’ Guidelines (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- FTC Charges mHealth Apps With False Advertising – No Scientific Evidence for Curing Acne So There’s Not An App for That (ducknetweb.blogspot.com)
- FTC Approves Final Settlement Orders Against Marketers Who Claimed Their Mobile Apps Could Cure Acne (ftc.gov)
- Should Mobile Medical Apps Require FDA Approval? (informationweek.com)
- FDA Review of Some Medical Apps May Be Increased (socialtimes.com)
- Is It Really FDA Approved? (everydayhealth.com)
- Mobile Medical Apps Supervision By FDA, Agency Seeking Input (medicalnewstoday.com)
- FTC: Smartphone apps do not cure acne (news.consumerreports.org)
- Can the iPad cure what ails us? (macworld.com)
- Apps for What Ails You (technologyreview.in)
- FDA will have a plan for healthcare mobile apps in 2012. In the meantime… (medcitynews.com)
The National Library of Medicine (NLM), wishes to congratulate the five winning entries in the Library’s software development challenge, “Show off Your Apps: Innovative Uses of NLM Information.” In addition, we thank all Entrants for participating in the Library’s first software development challenge!
GLAD4U (Gene List Automatically Derived For You) is a new, free web-based gene retrieval and prioritization tool, which takes advantage of the NCBI’s Entrez Programming Utilities (E-utilities). Upon the submission of a query, GLAD4U retrieves the corresponding publications with eSearch before using Pubmed ID-Entrez Gene ID mapping tables provided by the NCBI to create a list of genes. A statistics-based prioritization algorithm ranks those genes into a list that is output to the user, usually within less than a minute. The GLAD4U user interface accepts any valid queries for PubMed, and its output page displays the ranked gene list and information associated with each gene, chronologically-ordered supporting publications, along with a summary of the run and links for file exports and for further functional enrichment analyses.
Learning anatomy interactively with a touchscreen device is dynamic and engaging. Having it as an app, makes the information available anywhere, anytime. iAnatomy is an exciting electronic anatomy atlas for iPhone/iPod touch. The images are interactive and zoomable. If a label is touched, the name of the structure is shown. Images span from the face to the pelvis. The face and neck images and the female pelvis images are reconstructed from data from the National Library of Medicine’s Visible Human Project. iAnatomy is designed to stand on its own and does not require an ongoing internet connection. Learning is reinforced with multiple quiz modes. Latin medical terminology is also included as an option for international use.
The KNALIJ web application addresses the challenges and opportunities posed by ‘big data’ with a new generation of information visualization tools. It offers researchers, students and health consumers alike a technology platform with capabilities to rapidly discover and gain insights from the copious amounts of information being made available from the National Libraries of Medicine (NLM), through its data repositories such as PubMed. KNALIJ recognizes the ‘connections’ linking bio-medical and life sciences research and researchers around the world, and visualizes those linkages. This makes them clear, intuitive, and even playful by providing interactive ‘information communities’ for exploration, analysis, and education.
NLMplus is an innovative semantic search and discovery application developed by WebLib LLC, a small business in Maryland. NLMplus provides enhanced access to the vast collection of health and biomedical information and services made available by the world’s largest medical library, the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Quertle is an innovative website for searching and investigating the biomedical literature. Quertle uses advanced linguistic methods to find the most relevant documents instead of traditional keyword searching, which often returns an overwhelming list of uninformative articles. Quertle is geared to active life science professionals – both researchers and health care providers – and saves them considerable time and effort in finding the literature they need. Quertle, available on the web using any browser, simultaneously searches multiple sources of life science literature, including MEDLINE.
The BioDigital Human Platform simplifies the understanding of health topics by visualizing anatomy, conditions and treatments. Similar to how geo-browsers such as Google Earth serve as the basis for thousands of location based applications, the BioDigital Human Platform will open up entirely new ways to augment healthcare applications. From the visual representation of concepts found on health portals, to step-by-step virtual guidance for surgical planning, to EHR integration so patients can finally understand their diagnosis, the BioDigital Human Platform will meet the learning demands of 21st century medicine.
DailyMedPlus is an online application providing integrated access to pharmaceutical information available from various databases provided by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). DailyMedPlus offers a high-performance unified search engine providing ranked, highlighted and full-text search results for patients and healthcare professionals who seek updated prescribing information. As the only product of its kind, the application supports searching NLM databases for pharmaceutical products using trade and generic names, medical conditions, indications, contra-indications, side-effects, and also allows for the searching of these products by their physical characteristics (“red round”), providing image results in an in line intuitive layout. Users benefit from comprehensive search results of more than 90,000 products displayed in over 26,000 organized and digitally curated monographs designed for browsing on a wide variety of desktop and mobile platforms.
Drug Diary is an iOS (iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad) application that allows users to quickly build an inventory of prescribed and OTC medications they are currently taking or have taken in the past along with information on the associated prescribers and pharmacies. From there, they are able to take notes outlining their experiences with these medications and generate reports to share with care providers. Data entry is made quick and easy through the use of a locally cached copy of the NLM’s RxTerms dataset and intelligent data entry screens that require little to no typing. The app leverages the data present in RxTerms to allow one tap access to another NLM source, MedLine Plus, which is a web portal that provides detailed information on the medications in the user’s library.
Molecules is a 3-D molecular modeling application for Apple’s iOS devices, including the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. It pushes the limits of mobile graphics processors by using advanced techniques to make realistic renderings of molecular models. A touch-based interface allows for intuitive manipulation of these structures, so that they can be viewed from any angle and at any scale. While originally designed for researchers to view and present biomolecule structures on the go, the most popular use of Molecules has proven to be in education. Chemistry teachers are using this application to explain common molecular structures to their students, and biology professors are demonstrating the form and function of biomolecules. Many students already have iOS devices of their own, so they are able to make the lesson more personal by following along on their own iPhone or iPad. The popularity of this approach is seen in the over 1.7 million downloads of this application to date.
Orkov is a Greek term for Hippocratic Oath that medical professionals, especially, physicians take all over the world. Orkov, an iPhone App for iOS 5 platform as well as for Android OS is a productivity smart phone application for hundreds of thousands of medical researchers who are the end users of PubMed.gov data all over the world. Orkov empowers many researchers to search and browse research abstracts and full text research articles from the repository of PubMed.gov’s over 5,000+ research journals. Orkov utilizes publicly available web service interface of PubMed.gov. Majority of the features of PubMed.gov are wrapped into a powerful iPhone/Andorid App that is easy to use and navigate.
- Quertle, a Life Sciences Semantic Search Engine, Wins a National Library of Medicine Award (biojobblog.com)