SEATLLE -- First there were online medical sites. Now health apps are exploding. But which ones can you trust and how can you use them responsibly?
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, pediatrician with the Everett Clinic and known online as "Seattle Mama Doc," shares some much needed guidance.
Dr. Swanson says health apps have taken do-it-yourself to a whole new level, for better for for worse. She gives a thumbs up to those that help track diet and exercise.
However, when it comes to dianosis, watch out. A study in JAMA found that three popular apps claiming to detect melanoma missed the cancer on average 30 percent of the time. Dr. Swanson says, at best, apps and online resources are only helpful tools, not replacements for your doctor.
The FDA currently does not have jurisdiction over smartphone apps; however, the FTC was able to shut down two apps that claimed to treat acne with a blue light.
Statistics from The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project
- 80 percent of people look up health info, but 35 percent now go online to self-diagnose
- 77 percent of people use a search engine first
- About one-half of people went in to see their doctor based on findings online
- 85 percent of all adults in US have cell phone, more than 50 percent have smart phone
- 1 in 5 Americans have a health app on their phone
New Research Shows Not All Apps Work (from JAMA Dermatology, Jan. 2013)
- Doctors loaded photos of moles into four popular skin cancer screening apps
- They found highly variable resuts: none of the apps were perfect
- 3 of 4 skin cancer apps missed 30 percent of the cancerous moles
- The best app sent the photo of mole to a dermatologist to evaluate
What Parents Need To Know
- Health apps still don't replace a visit. Many are not ready for "prime time"
- Create a "breadcrumb trail" when you're online - print out info & bring it to your doctor’s appointment
- Take photos of rashes or conditions you're concerned about
- Use health apps you like but confirm results with your doctor
- Read health info from medical institution websites & content written by experts