Health & medicine Science & tech

Taming the Wild West – regulating digital health apps

Health-related smartphone apps have surged in number and popularity, especially during the pandemic, but they are sparsely monitored. Abi Millar asks if the sector is in need of regulatory reform.

Over the past few years, health-related smartphone apps have become a force to be reckoned with. Whether you’re looking for a diabetes app for monitoring blood glucose, a brain training app to help beat brain fog, or nutrition advice based on your own genetic profile, there’s an app for that. Especially since the start of the pandemic, digital health tools of this kind have surged in popularity.

On the one hand, the proliferation of apps has many benefits. Apps can be empowering for users, allowing them to take aspects of their healthcare into their own hands and improving the accessibility of services. Mental health apps, for instance, could play a key role in mitigating our present mental health crisis, at a time when existing provisions are struggling to meet demand.

Apps for specific conditions could also improve patient outcomes, for instance by reminding users to take their medications or nudging them to adjust their behaviours. They can monitor patients’ vital signs and flag up any troubling results that emerge.

Read the rest of this article in the May 2022 edition of Medical Technology

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