The Office of the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced settlements with three popular health apps – Cardiio, Runtastic, and Matis – over accuracy claims that weren’t backed by evidence.

Heart rate monitoring apps, both for personal use as well as fetal heart rate monitoring, are among the most popular health apps in iTunes and Google Play. Few, if any, have really been rigorously tested to prove they actually work. We’ve seen the FTC take action on many health apps previously, including medical apps claiming to measure blood pressure.

The New York Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau has been investigating the claims made by popular health apps over the past year, led by Assistant Attorney General Michael Reisman. This week they announced settlements with the makers of Cardiio, Runtastic, and Matis including fines, changes in advertising, and prominent disclaimers added to their apps.

Cardiio and Runtastic both claimed to measure heart rate. Matis claimed to measure fetal heart rate for pregnant women. As the New York AG pointed out, however, none of these health apps were ever tested for their intended use. For example, Matis never compared studied its app in comparison to a fetal heart rate monitor or doppler measurements of fetal heart rate. They also highlighted deceptive advertising practices, such as Cardiio’s implication of endorsement by MIT.

In addition to disclaimers highlighting the lack of FDA clearance and changing their accuracy claims, they will also now be required to get user consent to collect personally identifying data.

With the FDA’s hands off approach to health apps, consumers – both patients and clinicians – have to be able to make educated decisions themselves about use of health apps. Ensuring that the market is transparent and that health app developers give users honest and accurate information about what these apps can actually do. This action by the New York AG helps make that happen by sending a clear message that its not just the FTC that’s watching.

Source: New York Attorney General