A growing number of health apps promise users a variety of services, including measuring blood sugar, heart rate or sleep levels in a few minutes with a mobile phone… but many of them are totally or partially unwilling to keep their promises.
In recent years, this market has registered significant growth until online stores have hundreds of thousands of medical applications.
These numbers mask a wide range of devices with varying sophistication: from monitoring heart rate to predicting the possibility of new relapses in people with cancer, to measuring different medical variables with or without connected accessories.
“There are many applications that allow you to monitor heart rate,” explains Nicolas Bagis, anesthesiologist and resuscitator and founder of the Statalia platform, which allows monitoring patients with heart failure.
“Just put a finger on the phone’s camera to monitor your heart rate by changing colors,” he told AFP.
Although this technology has shown “very good effectiveness”, it is difficult to know if the same is true with other applications, according to Pages, who says that some applications are “totally useless”, and “the difficult task is to identify and distinguish them”. serious applications of others.”
He warns that many apps make promises that are not based on any scientific basis, noting that most phone apps targeting the public have not proven their worth in this field.
A study by a French team, the results of which were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, highlighted this problem. Of the 68 French apps analysed, 64^ were not conducted in significant clinical studies before their launch in online stores.
Only 21% of the apps conducted scientific studies with an experimental protocol designed to measure their effectiveness. This is especially due to the fact that these studies cost tens of thousands of dollars and are not required.
“There is no standard pathway for medical applications and drugs, for example,” says Remy Sebatier, a cardiologist and vice president of the field’s structural regulation goal at the National Institute for Electronic Health.
And he adds: “There were applications that promised to measure blood pressure, but it turned out to be completely false”, which is “very annoying for its users who thought they were monitoring their pressure level”, putting their lives at risk.
There is also another risk associated with the security of highly sensitive health data. “So far, it’s a disaster,” says Vincent Trelli, founding president of the Association for the Security of Health Data Systems.
Most apps are free, and in this case, “the product is you,” says Trelly, noting that “the only goal is to collect data at scale” for resale.
But it is not possible to put all the applications in a single basket. There is a real difference between what is related to the well-being of the user and those that are purely medical, according to the specialists, although “sometimes the limit is not clear and the legislation leaves room for anyone to determine their position in the box they want.
Vincent Trelli confirms that “doctor-promoted apps” are “reliable”, but their number is very small. These scientifically approved applications allow, for the most part, to monitor the status of people with heart disease or chronic diseases such as diabetes.