Despite the popularity of health care-related smart phone applications, there is not much evidence to suggest they actually work to promote healthy behavior in users, LiveScience/Fox News reports (LiveScience/Fox News, 3/21).
Prevalence, Use of Health-Related Apps
There are about 8,000 health-related apps available through iTunes alone, according to Brian Dolan of MobiHealthNews.
Yet individuals who seek out the technology do not necessarily use it frequently, according to mobile health app analyst Pamela Culver, who found that 26% of those who download health apps use them only once (De La Rocha, Yahoo! News, 3/21).
Studies Consider App Efficacy
A recent study on the efficacy of anti-smoking apps by Lorien Abroms, a researcher at George Washington University, found that none of the reviewed apps offered methods proven successful by smoking cessation programs.
In a separate study that has not yet been published, Abroms found that weight-loss apps fared better in providing known methods for losing weight (LiveScience/Fox News, 3/21).
Health-related apps could more reliably offer proven techniques in the future, as FDA recently said it will begin requiring regulatory review and software validation for the technology, according to Yahoo! News (Yahoo! News, 3/21).
However, according to Adam Kaufman -- president of DPS Health, which contracts with insurers and physicians for patient support programs -- no studies have assessed how well health-related apps change behaviors primarily because academic research tends to lag behind innovation in technology (LiveScience/Fox News, 3/21).
Margaret Morris, a senior researcher with Intel, said that to reliably change behaviors, health apps will have to account for variations in user motivations.
At a recent panel on health apps at the South by Southwest Interactive, Morris said, "One of the landmines with developing and promoting health software is an assumption that people set health goals and follow them in a steadfast manner," adding, "But people have a lot of variation in motivation and we need to address the social and emotion[al] factors that affect motivation variation" (Yahoo! News, 3/21).