Ensuring safe medical apps

BMC Medicine 2015, 13:205

Authors: Paul Wicks and Emil Chiauzzi

Mobile health apps are health and wellness programs available on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. In three systematic assessments published in BMC Medicine, Huckvale and colleagues demonstrate that widely available health apps meant to help patients calculate their appropriate insulin dosage, educate themselves about asthma, or perform other important functions are methodologically weak. Insulin dose calculators lacked user input validation and made inappropriate dose recommendations, with a lack of documentation throughout. Since 2011, asthma apps have become more interactive, but have not improved in quality; peak flow calculators have the same issues as the insulin calculators. A review of the accredited National Health Service Health Apps Library found poor and inconsistent implementation of privacy and security, with 28 % of apps lacking a privacy policy and one even transmitting personally identifying data the policy claimed would be anonymous. Ensuring patient safety might require a new approach, whether that be a consumer education program at one extreme or government regulation at the other. App store owners could ensure transparency of algorithms (whiteboxing), data sharing, and data quality. While a proper balance must be struck between innovation and caution, patient safety must be paramount.

Click here to read the full paper.

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App maps long term conditions

E-Health Insider, 17 February 2015

A new mobile app has been launched to make it easier for people with long-term conditions to log their symptoms and medications.  The Health Mapper app allows users to track single of multiple health conditions and record any symptoms, medications, measurements or lifestyle variables like sleep, diet, or exercise.  They can then create and export health reports and customised charts allowing them to share information with their doctor via email or the app.  Health Mapper can be downloaded for via the Apple Itunes store.

Click here for further information.

Text messaging service ‘helps people take their pills’

BBC News, 6 December 2014

A text messaging service could help people remember to take the medicines they have been prescribed, say researchers.

A test scheme, which involved heart patients, cut the numbers who forgot or just stopped taking their pills…

Click here to read the full story.

Personalised health and care 2020

Department of Health, 13 November 2014

This policy paper from the Department of Health is not a strategy in the conventional sense. It is not a national plan, but a framework for action that will support frontline staff, patients and citizens to take better advantage of the digital opportunity.

Better use of data and technology has the power to improve health, transform the quality and reduce the cost of health and care services.

It can:

  • give patients and citizens more control over their health and wellbeing
  • empower carers
  • reduce the administrative burden for care professionals
  • support the development of new medicines and treatments

This framework has been developed based on evidence from many sources, including civil society and patient organisations, as well as directly from service users.

The National Information Board will report annually on progress made against the priorities detailed in this framework and review them each year to reflect changing technology and accommodate new requirements from the public and staff. The proposals in this framework are not comprehensive but they represent the core and immediate priorities for delivery of modern digital health and care services.

Click here for further information and to download the paper.

Internet-delivered exposure-based cognitive-behavioural therapy and behavioural stress management for severe health anxiety: randomised controlled trial

British Journal of Psychiatry, 7 August 2014

Talking therapies delivered via the Internet are more effective ways of treating severe anxiety than other web-based psychological treatments, a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests.

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