Apps. We all know them, we all have them, we all use them. But do we really benefit from them? In our tech-tacular world, we are constantly bombarded with a barrage of ideas; ideas about anything from how we should look and how we should eat to how we should communicate and with whom. And, of course, we are provided with the e-tools (the most recent and popular being apps) through which we can instantaneously find the answers we seek.
Unsurprisingly, we look toward apps to aid us in creating and navigating a healthy lifestyle. Apps like MyFitnessPal, a calorie/diet tracker, Pacer, a pedometer/blood pressure tracker, and PeriodTracker, a menstrual cycle tracker, are making appearances on phones and tablets worldwide. While convenient, these are also more than a little concerning. Some experts believe that the development of these apps may be helpful to patients of lower socioeconomic status (who may not have access to reliable medical information). However, while health applications may mitigate the issue of lack of information, lack of health literacy still presents problems.
Medical apps, including those intended to calculate HIV risk, analyze melanoma risk and self-test for erectile dysfunction, are rarely curated by credible medical sources. Widespread use of medical apps may further endanger people in need of real medical resources through misinformation, misinterpretation and misapplication of health information. This may encourage harmful self-treatment and potentially exacerbate existing conditions.
For others, the crux of the problem is hyperawareness spurred by too much information. The amount and variety of available health and medical apps are staggering, exposing patients to programs meant to solve issues about which they had never previously been concerned. This encourages a form of hypochondria, obsessive self-monitoring that often causes incorrect self-diagnosis and mistreatment. The ever-increasing use of health apps threatens medical practitioners, as well, displacing physicians as the de facto medical experts and turning out misinformed, unreceptive patients.
Are today’s health apps plaguing or helping the medical landscape?
What’s your diagnosis?