Recently, I posted on a controversial healthcare application that claims to treat seasonal depression. In my post, I talked about the ridiculous app and wondered if the App Store approval process needed to be tweaked when it came to medical and healthcare apps. Then I started wondering if there are actual medical standards the App Store has in place. There was a nice write up done by PC World talking about how the lack of overall set standards are hurting developers and the end users. But what about medical standards in the App Store Approval process? That’ll be the discussion of this post.
It’s OK to post an iPhone app that guides users to (legal) marijuana suppliers, but it’s not OK to post a goofy little app that turns the iPhone into a simulated pot pipe. What’s the difference? Beats me, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Apple’s App Store ayatollahs are way too heavy handed and need to lighten up. They are hurting consumers, developers, and ultimately, the company they’re supposed to protect.
The problem is Apple refuses to tell what the OVERALL standards clearly are. They have some set rules, but their approach to controversial issues is to handle them on a case by case basis. The lack of standards can clearly hurt when it comes to apps such as the "Blue Light Therapy" App.
The description of the blue light therapy app is in itself hilarious. (iTunes link). "…clinically proven to fight seasonal depression…." Then a the end "….not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease…". So….Apple rejects goofy apps that mimic a hookah burning tobacco because it doesn’t meet their "standards", but an app that contradicts it’s purpose in it’s own description is totally okay? Interesting….
There is actually a nice site that describes a lot of the App Store rules and how the approval process works/doesn’t work. I searched the web trying to see if there were any sort of standards for Medical/Healthcare Applications submitted to the App Store but I couldn’t find any. If there aren’t even a set of clearly defined standards for the overall app store, then one would assume there definitely wouldn’t be any sort of of higher standards for healthcare or medical apps.
The beauty of the App Store is that anyone with an innovative idea can develop an application. At the same time, anyone with a shady idea, especially medically or healthcare related can develop an application as well. The problem with medical and healthcare apps is, it’s harder for people outside of healthcare to see if they are actually useful. Bringing more scrutiny to the Medical or Healthcare approval process could lead to bigger headaches and issues with an all too familiar slippery slope.
Medicine is a constantly changing field, and there are medical applications in the App Store that are clearly outdated. It should be up to healthcare provider to realize this and it would be too difficult for Apple to police these applications. They don’t exactly know what standard of care is. I don’t think
Apple needs to have a doctor or healthcare provider on their approval board, but for apps in the medical or healthcare category, why not have a simple link in the iTunes description where you can voice a complaint easily? Or better yet, why not reject apps that contradict their healing powers in their own description? Until then, we’ll be here trying to keep you up to date….