Health apps to pick, ones to skip

FDA offers list of apps approved by its researchers


Mobile health apps can be magnificent. They can help you to keep track of your steps, count calories, or even provide some basic information about symptoms. But, there are some apps that may do you more harm than good.

Dr. Daniel Neides, who specializes in integrative medicine at Cleveland Clinic, says when it comes to choosing a health app you must do your homework.

"You want to know that there is some scientific evidence to support the use of that particular app, otherwise we're basically downloading information or uploading information that we don't know will enhance or improve the patient outcome," said Neides.

According to a report by the American Medical Association Council on Science and Public Health there are about 97,000 mobile health applications available for download. The problem is only a small portion of them are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or otherwise proven through scientific studies.

FDA researchers recommend avoiding apps that are supposed to double as a heart monitor or a stethoscope. You should also stay away from health apps claiming they can be used to measure blood oxygen or to test hearing.

The FDA approves of some apps that do things like monitor blood sugar, exercise amounts, or give general patient education. But Neides says there is no app that will replace a visit to the doctor.

"If there is any concern about a symptom or a potential diagnosis it is best to contact your healthcare provider, meet with them in person, and determine if further treatment is warranted," he said.

Read the FDA's list of applications that their researchers have approved.