This post was written by Jacqueline Borrett. Jacqueline is a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Her work centers on human responses to new media and technology.
What if you went to your doctor and, instead of a pharmacy prescription, he or she prescribed an app? In today’s smart-tech age it’s not that outlandish. There are thousands of health related apps on the market and the medical community wants in.
Doctors are currently using apps in the exam room for things ranging from ultrasounds to heart monitoring and, while the Food and Drug Administration has approved those devices, there is a wealth of untested health applications. FDA approval is certainly a good thing when it comes to apps used in the exam rooms, but the agency says that it will only test apps that have potentially serious consequences should they fail. That leaves the majority of health apps virtually untested.
As a new consumer of apps, I’m not sure how I feel about this. Obviously, there’s no feasible way for the FDA to test all of the apps that are available. On the other hand, do I really want my doctor prescribing me an app? Particularly if there’s no evidence that it works? One solution is to set up a certification system where a third party testing company would put apps through trials. If the app has a positive outcome, such as actually helping people lose weight, then it becomes a “certified” weight-loss app.
At the moment, there is nothing in place to test things like weight-loss apps and it’s left up to consumers to decide which apps they think will work. One of the best things you can do is to know what’s out there and what will work for you. So, be aware and don’t be surprised if your doctor sends you home with a prescription for an app instead of medication.
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