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Study: medical apps put to the test - only a few adhere to data protection
More and more apps are being offered these days to help us monitor and improve our health. But many of these so-called medical apps do not deliver what they promise, a study has now found. Such programs often fail to comply with data protection regulations.
There are numerous health and medical apps on the market, but unfortunately only a few have a real diagnostic and therapeutic claim. This is the result of a study sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Health for the Peter L. Reichertz Institute for Medical Informatics. The Federal Ministry of Health published the results of the study in a current press release.
Apps need clear quality and security standards
Health apps should normally support and help people, explains Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe (CDU) in the current press release. The politician calls for an agreement on "clear quality and safety standards" for patients, doctors and app developers. There are now more than 100,000 different apps related to medicine and health. The huge selection does not make it easy for citizens and medical professionals to identify good offers among the many bad apps, adds Gröhe. There is currently a kind of wild growth on the app market. This must be contained urgently, the researchers say. Better ways to identify useful apps are needed. The apps are often designed as short-term successes, explains the study director and deputy director of the Reichertz Institute, Urs-Vito Albrecht. The institute is operated jointly by the Technical University of Braunschweig and the Hannover Medical School.
Study provides starting points for further discussions
The development of apps for smartphones and tablets has to change fundamentally and manufacturers should urgently develop programs that are safe and trustworthy, the researchers say. We also need more detailed research into the effectiveness of such apps. "Basically, the evidence on the subject is thin, which makes an objective assessment of the benefits of the technology extremely difficult," explains study leader Albrecht. The current study is intended to provide a kind of basis for a scientific inventory of the sector. The study, called "Opportunities and Risks of Health Apps" (Charismha), provides various starting points for further discussions between doctors, politicians, industry and users.
Apps often fail to comply with data protection regulations
Data protection is a major problem with so-called medical apps, explains the Federal Ministry of Health. Apps often fail to comply with data protection regulations, the ministry said. It is imperative to give consumers better help, experts at the Reichertz Institute add. Many people see apps as a kind of incentive to eat healthier or to exercise more. Some apps also help sick people take medication. For this reason, it is important that those involved ensure that the products also bring real benefits for the patients, the scientists demand. Such apps would then have to reach the market as quickly as possible. "The study presented is an important basis for the specialist dialogue with experts and those responsible in the healthcare sector, which we now want to enter," explains Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe
Diagnostic and therapy apps should be encouraged
The study also recommends promoting the further scientific evaluation of prevention apps as well as apps for diagnostics and therapy in order to create more evidence. According to the researchers' recommendation, it is essential to check whether so-called medical apps should be included in the regular health insurance coverage. Before that, however, the scientists need to clarify whether the effectiveness of apps can be evaluated in the clinical studies that are common today. (as)