Don’t Substitute Real Care with Mobile Health Apps
As patients increasingly turn to their mobile devices to research symptoms associated with aches, pains and injuries, we’re noticing some of them are walking into the office for the first time with a confident self-diagnosis. In some cases we hear about patients who either chose not to schedule an appointment or delayed their visit because of what they read on a mobile health app.
This issue has long been a concern for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
According to the AAOS, medical apps are required to meet specific criteria, but the review process only scrutinizes the app’s compliance with developer guidelines and not the accuracy of its data.
The use of mobile technology to assist physicians and patients is called “mHealth.” In the last few years there have been many apps created that are capable of functioning as an examination tool and a source for medical information, but we can’t stress enough that such apps should not substitute the doctor-patient relationship.
The increase in mHealth prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to draft mobile health app guidelines in July 2011, but the FDA has stated it is not positioned to properly validate the content of such apps. Some medical providers and app developers have since gone to great lengths to validate certain health apps, and orthopaedic surgery is currently the leader in the number of validated apps to date.
Unfortunately there are still hundreds of accessible mobile health apps that provide treatment advice, medical demonstrations and additional education without receiving proper validation. As a result it is our job to remind patients that mobile health apps aren’t a replacement for doctor visits. It is well understood that each patient is unique and may present symptoms in a different manner, but most health apps tend to generalize symptoms and are unable to take patient history into account. Naturally this is one of the biggest mHealth concerns among the orthopaedic community.
At Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine we love to see patients educate themselves about their health, but at the same time we want patients to understand that mobile health apps should be used as a resource in conjunction with a doctor’s evaluation.
If you experience muscle or joint pain or recently had an injury that may need treatment, don’t solely rely on information you find on the Internet or on a mobile health app. Instead we encourage you to call 904-825-0540 or request an appointment and receive an opinion from one of our orthopaedic specialists.
ALBERT VOLK, MD
Board certifications in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. He specializes in an all-arthroscopic rotator cuff repair of the shoulder.