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Health-tracking apps: How accurate is the data? 

A journalist uses the new Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone at a press event in London, Britain February 20, 2019. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Oct 30, 2019, 11.15 AM (IST) Edited By: Sparshita Saxena

With everything available just a click away on our smartphones and with an ever-increasing dependence on mobile phone applications, what if these apps may be giving you wrong analysis of your health? 

Thanks to technology, there is now an application available for almost every health condition - from PTSD to anxiety to even hormonal imbalance but how accurate are these health apps and should you be trusting the data that throw at you completely?

Faulty screening methods and thin science are leading many customers in a trap of misinformation about their health conditions. Users end up seeking medical treatment from doctors based on the apps' contorted analysis.

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Sample this, in September alone, more than 636,000 women completed health assessments on a couple of leading period-tracking apps that introduced health tools to evaluate a woman’s risk for a hormonal imbalance known as polycystic ovary syndrome. The app then recommended 240,000 of those women to ask their doctors about the hormonal disorder and get tested. All this while, users were unaware that the apps did not conduct high-level clinical studies to determine the accuracy and were gradually pushing them towards over-diagnosis.

There is an increasing problem with digital health tracking because the apps that merely make suggestions for diagnosis are able to escape the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) extensive scrutiny.

For years, health-tracking applications have helped people collect and chart data on their heart rates, moods, sleep patterns, fitness and menstrual cycles but now, some of these apps are going further by using that data to predict an individual’s risk for ailments like heart conditions. In other words, these apps are moving from simply quantifying consumers’ health data to medicalising it.


 

Story highlights

Thanks to technology, there is now an application available for almost every health condition - from PTSD to anxiety to even hormonal imbalance.