Why You Can’t Rely on Medical Apps

There’s a growing number of mobile apps out there designed to help people self-diagnose medical ailments. While medical apps may seem like a cheap and convenient way to keep tabs on your health, it’s important to understand the true value of these apps. Medical apps can be helpful and informative tools, but they’re not always credible, and they shouldn’t be relied on for diagnosis.

More importantly, self-diagnosing apps can’t replace medical professionals.

More people are using the Internet for medical information

According to Pew Research Center, only 13% of American adults do not use the Internet. This means that 87% of U.S. adults – or almost 9 out of 10 – are online. 72% of these internet users look for health information online. Additionally, one out of three Americans say that they consult online resources to diagnose themselves or someone they know for medical issues. This makes sense, though. We use apps and online information for everything else in our lives, so why not our health, right?

Researching symptoms and health information online isn’t a bad thing. There are certainly credible online resources that provide reliable health information – CDC, ODPHP, NIH, and HHS, just to name a few. You can find plenty of medical websites that provide good, reliable information, including this one. However, you must recognize that there are just as many resources offering bad information as there are offering good information, and regardless of how credible that information is, online resources don’t eliminate the need for doctors.

Moving beyond online information pages, that are apps that will tell you whether your eyesight is good or bad, wearables that hook up to an app that measures brain activity, apps that will track your sleep and movement, and apps that help you track your mood. These can also be good information sources, providing data that you can share with your doctor.

Study finds that apps aren’t as accurate as doctors

A recent study found that medical apps are far less accurate at making diagnoses than trained medical professionals. Physicians had the correct diagnosis 72% of the time, whereas the apps managed a correct diagnosis just 34% of the time. This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one.

While this study doesn’t necessarily indicate that medical apps are inaccurate, it does demonstrate that medical professionals are more accurate at diagnosis than apps.

Why should this be? Of course there’s the quality of app, but there’s also the amount of information an app receives. You may be able to take a simple eye test, but you can’t be checked for glaucoma. A wearable can track your sleep, but can’t determine whether medications, physical illness, or anxiety might be the cause of sleep problems.

Why you shouldn’t rely on medical apps for a diagnosis

Medical professionals have education, training, and experience that can’t be replicated by a mobile app. Medical professionals are far more likely to correctly diagnose medical ailments than self-diagnosing apps.

Don’t think of medical apps as a replacement for your physician. Medical apps can be used as tools, and they can help you communicate with your physician. However, you should be extremely cautious when checking your symptoms online or on an app. It’s easy to feel as though you’ve confidently diagnosed a problem, but that doesn’t mean your self-diagnoses is actually correct. Misdiagnosis can have serious health consequences.

Whether it’s an app or a website on the Internet, make sure that information comes from a credible source. But even if the information is reliable, only medical professionals should make medical diagnoses. Schedule your appointment with a MANA physician today!