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People Should be Careful of Health Apps on Smartphones

People Should be Careful of Health Apps on Smartphones

Thursday, 2 November, 2017 - 07:00
An Egyptian volunteer holds water bottles for passing runners participating in Cairo's annual Half Marathon in the Heliopolis district in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Health applications on mobile devices such as smartphones have many benefits. For instance, they contribute to enhancing fitness and protecting against illness. But users should be cautious, as many health app developers do not belong to the healthcare field, according to Dr. Urs-Vito Albrecht, deputy director of the Health Information Institute at the Hannover School of Medicine in Germany.

One area of ​​research for Albrecht is to monitor the benefits and risks of health applications on smart devices. Here are some tips on how users know whether the health application is reliable or not:

-Content monitoring: Medical experts review the content of the app. Their names should be mentioned, as well as other references such as clinical trials.

- Acceptance of information: Each medical community sets out guidelines on how to treat a particular disease. The tips in the app should follow those guidelines.

- Data protection: The application’s developer should explain how the user's personal data will be used; the app should ask only for the necessary data.

- Transparency: A reliable application will make it easy to know who invented it and how it receives payments. Of course, it must be free from advertising and provide communication information in case of inquiries.

- Easy comprehension: The application that focuses on exercises, for example, shows how to perform certain movements in an easy-to-understand-way, with the help of pictures or videos.

People from outside the medical community may find it difficult to adequately assess some of the above mentioned points. Users who are skeptical of the correct application used to check their weight or build muscles, should consult a doctor. So far there is no government agency that tests and evaluates health applications.

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