Doctors warn smartphones apps to monitor health may be inaccurate

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Many patients are relying more and more on mobile health and wellness apps, to help diagnose and deal with illnesses. But doctors say those apps aren’t always reliable and many give out inaccurate information.

88-year-old Milton Meisner is one of many people who checks and records his vitals like weight, temperature and blood pressure using a smartphone or tablet. His stats are instantly sent to his doctors through an online app.

In Meisner’s case, the healthcare app is approved by physicians at USC’s Keck Medical Center. They say the apps works the way it should. But that’s not the case for every app.

“We see applications that run the gamut, super responsible great applications and applications that don’t do anything near what they claim to do,” said Dr. Leslie Saxson.

There are currently more than 165 thousand health and wellness apps available on your smartphone or tablet. But only a fraction of them have been validated by the FDA. The agency has approved just more than 160 regulated applications. Dr. Saxson says many other apps on the market have not been tested enough for accuracy, and others have gone entirely unvetted.

A study from John Hopkins University found one popular blood pressure app gave measurements that were flat out wrong. It’s been pulled off the market.

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” Saxson says.

Saxson is now part of an FDA panel working to develop global guidelines and regulations for healthcare apps.

Doctors say you should consult with your physician if you plan to use an app. Doctors also say medical and health apps can be useful to supplement your health care, but should not be relied on as a primary means of diagnosing or treating any type of illness.

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