One trend that has been noted is the research into the amount of mobile applications in regards for a specialty.
While beneficial in demonstrating the number of apps available, the results are leading to some troubling revelations about the information available for medical purposes.
Namely, there is a shortage of apps that are scientifically backed or demonstrate some form of development with clinicians.
In a recent study by Pandey et al in the Journal of Cancer Education, the authors sought to identify mobile applications related to oncology as of July 29, 2011 . The authors searched the iTunes app store, using search terms ‘oncology’ and ‘cancer.’ Data was collected that dealt with the app category, cost, developer, audience, and what type of information was provided (e.g. assistance tool, research, general information).
Results of the study included 77 apps in the final analysis. Most of the apps identified dealt with general disease information (28/77, 36.4%), health care and patient assistant tools t (13/77, 16.9%), and with research and general awareness tools the least noted (10/77, 12.9%).
The majority of the apps required payment (57.2%), with cost ranging from $0-8. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, only a quarter of the apps were uploaded by health care agencies. Clinical evidence was noted in slightly over half the apps, and even those created by health care related agencies demonstrated that only 79% had scientific evidence provided. Lastly, most of the apps were targeted towards non-professionals.
I must completely agree with the authors statement that there is “…a paucity of medical accuracy and relevance of a majority of apps directed at general users.” . This statement alone is echoed multiple times in others mentioned earlier.
There simply is not a satisfactory amount of evidence being provided amongst applications that are designated Medical in purpose. This is a concern, especially when other studies are demonstrating medical students are turning to apps to learn about diseases and treatment.
Developers are at risk for creating apps without sound medical evidence if they do not turn to clinicians to help in their creation. In addition, there may come a time where medical societies need to identify apps for their members to utilize.
Pandey A, Hasan S, Dubey D, Sarangi S. Smartphone apps as a source of cancer information: changing trends in health information-seeking behavior. J Cancer Educ. 2013;28(1):138-42.