Many health apps are based on flimsy science at best, and they often do not work – The Washington Post

A good comprehensive review of some of the more dubious apps out there. As usual, is something sounds too good to be true, or makes a claim that stretches common sense, buyer beware. There is the broader debate about whether or not regulation is required, and if so, whether a heavy (e.g., approval and certification) or light (warning label) is required, with the usual political positions being taken (consumer safety vs innovation perspectives). Quote:

In an examination of 1,500 health apps that cost money and have been available since June 2011, the center [New England Center for Investigative Reporting] found that more than one out of five claims to treat or cure medical problems. Of the 331 therapeutic apps, nearly 43 percent relied on cellphone sound for treatments. Another dozen used the light of the cellphone, and two others used phone vibrations. Scientists say none of these methods could possibly work for the conditions in question.

“Virtually any app that claims it will cure someone of a disease, condition or mental health condition is bogus,” says John Grohol, an expert in online health technology, pointing out that the vast majority of apps have not been scientifically tested. “Developers are just preying on people’s vulnerabilities.”

Satish Misra, a physician and the managing editor of the app review Web site iMedicalApps, adds: “They take some therapeutic method that is real — and in some cases experimental — and create a grossly simplified version of that therapy using the iPhone. Who knows? Maybe it works.” But until testing shows otherwise, “my feeling would be that it doesn’t.”

Many health apps are based on flimsy science at best, and they often do not work – The Washington Post.


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