Sometimes useful, sometimes not, apps are part of the mobile health landscape
Want to check your heart rate? There’s an app for that.
Find a healthy restaurant? Determine the calorie count of menu items? Translate questions into Spanish to help a woman going into labor who’s nowhere near a hospital?
Yup. There are apps for that.
With thousands of healthcare and wellness apps available for iPhones, iPads, Droids and other mobile devices, chances are the ordinary consumer can get lost in a sea of information. That’s why it’s important, says Linda Travis Macomber, RN, BSN, MBA, to consider the source – to differentiate between the National Enquirer and the National Cancer Institute.
An assistant professor at the Center for Technology and Health Sciences at California's National University, Macomber offered this advice during a Wednesday afternoon HIMSS12 HIT X.0 session titled “Did You Know There is an App for That?” In front of a packed conference room, she told HIMSS12 attendees to try as many different apps as possible to determine whether they offer any value.
“Medications only work for patients who take them,” she said, borrowing a phrase from former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
Macomber rattled off an impressive list of apps for all occasions, including an app that can evaluate hearing loss, measure vision and color sensitivity, determine sleep patterns and measure sobriety.
“If you flunk it, it takes you to the nearest cab,” she joked.
Another app locates the nearest AED device.
“When I first did this, the nearest AED was in Singapore, from San Diego,” she said.
Macomber emphasized during her hour-long session that apps can run the gamut from meaningful to meaningless, and it’s up to the user to determine their value. When asked if she thought apps should come under closer scrutiny by the FDA, she based her answer on the type of app in question. An app that helps locate a healthy restaurant doesn’t need to be regulated, she said, while one that aids in clinical decision-making – such as measuring insulin doses for diabetics – should be carefully vetted.