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Your Health and Your Phone

regulation of mobile health apps

Health apps have become extremely popular in today’s digital age. Perhaps you use one to help count calories, track your fitness or plan healthy meals. Maybe you use an app to prevent Alzheimer’s or even monitor your heart rate. The great thing about these apps is how convenient they are. By entering your personal information, you are able to receive individualized health information in an instant, but it does raise the question of who is regulating this information.

There are currently more than 156,000 health and wellness apps, and yet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates only around 200. It may come as no big surprise that there have been lawsuits against certain apps for false advertising. As a result, several apps have a disclaimer that warns users that the app is not regulated.

The FDA will look at apps based on their risk level. Apps that either function as a medical device or turn your phone into a medical device are considered high risk and need to be regulated. The process for regulating a mobile app is the same as any other medical device you would receive from a doctor.

It can be tempting to assume an app is valid based on reviews and ratings from the app store, but always be an aware consumer. Look at the scientific evidence behind the development, and do not get tricked by fancy lingo -- many apps want to sound more credible than they are. And, of course, never use one of these apps in place of a medical professional.

Bottom Line: Health apps can be fun, convenient and a good way to gauge your wellness. However, it is important to keep some of the technical downfalls in mind; not all apps are created equal.

Written by: Meghan McGillvray, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.


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