Thursday, August 25, 2016

We Need To Retain Some Healthy Scepticism As More Clinical Apps Come To A Phone Near You!

This appeared last week.
  • August 19 2016 - 1:08PM

Doctors warn over diagnosis apps amid Ada launch

Julia Medew

It is marketed as being "smarter than human doctors" and the "world's most accurate health diagnosis service".
It is a medical app on your smartphone that invites you to put in a list of symptoms to find the most likely explanation. According to the company that created Ada, the app includes 10,000 symptoms and diseases and was developed by 100 doctors, making it more knowledgeable than any human brain.  
But for all its promises, leading Australian GPs are urging consumers to be wary of it and other apps that make similar claims. Both the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of GPs said they were concerned about the accuracy of the Ada system, and its potential to either falsely reassure people about their health or alarm them unnecessarily.
Despite a booming market for health apps, including ones that aim to diagnose, research suggests they may not be as reliable as they appear.  
Nathan Pinskier, chairman of the College of GPs' e-health and technology committee, said while many doctors were starting to use apps to support their clinical decision making and were directing patients towards some for their own health needs, research on such apps showed they were not always accurate and could be dangerous.
"There's still a lot of work to be done in this space," the GP said. "It's fair to say that clinicians can't remember everything and you do need access to support tools. The question is, how standardised are those support tools and if you enter the same information into different products will you end up with similar outcomes and guidance? The evidence says no at the moment."
Last year, three studies published in BMC Medicine found that health apps designed to help people calculate insulin dosages, educate them about asthma and perform other important functions were methodologically weak. The researchers also found that many apps lacked reliable privacy and security settings, with one sharing personally identifying data about users that should have been kept anonymous.
President of the College of GPs Frank Jones said that while he did not mind people Googling their symptoms before seeing a GP, he was concerned about the accuracy of an app that suggested it could diagnose people. He said users risked misinterpreting their symptoms without a physical examination while using the app. 
More here:
 I have nothing to add other than to point out that the routine criteria that are used to assess value and effectiveness need to be applied to these various app innovations. Only if we do that will we be clear as to what works and what does not!
David.

1 comment:

Bernard Robertson-Dunn said...

There are three types of mHealthApp

1. Admin things like reminders, appointments etc
2. Health information
3. Personal health data acquisition/recording

1. is OK

2. can be questionable/unreliable.

3. IMHO, you can aim exactly the same criticisms at these mHealthApps as you can at MyHR:

Problems and issues with data quality, accuracy, reliability, manageability, currency, privacy and security.

Apart from that, everything is OK.

It's one thing to use mHealthApp for fun, it's quite another to use them to inform health care decisions, either personally or by a health care professional.

And interfacing them with #myhealthrecord is total madness.

IMHO - again.