Studies argue if health apps can impact our well-being

  • Shobhan Singh, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 15, 2015 22:31 IST

From tips about weight loss to managing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, health apps which are widely available on smartphones, offer a wide range of services.

But two articles published on Tuesday in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) have argued whether health apps can really have a positive impact on the general health of the user. One article has argued that the health apps have the potential to make a broad impact on the health of the general population; but the second article said that there was not enough evidence to support such claims and even suggested that indiscriminate use of health apps may even be harmful.

Some have been shown to improve health outcomes and have “great potential to reduce morbidity and mortality,” argued Iltifat Husain, editor of, and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, USA.

He said, “Two randomised controlled trials have demonstrated that weight loss apps on traditional personal digital assistants increased compliance and improved weight loss when compared to traditional programmes.”

Countering Husain’s article, Des Spence, a general practitioner, wrote in BMJ that most health apps are “mostly harmless and likely useless”, but he warned of the rise of apps used alongside wearable devices that monitor heart rate, blood pressure and so on.

“These are untested and unscientific. They can ignite extreme anxiety and medical harm through over-diagnosis of health conditions,” said Spence.

Experts in India said that apps are nothing but complimentary tools for facilitating good health or even treatment. “Apps cannot replace doctors or a healthcare provider, it can only compliment. But after all that a patient has to rely on the expertise of a doctor,” said Dr Aniruddha Malpani, IVF specialist.

“Health apps are not a substitute for medical expertise and advice. If used in consultation with doctors then it can be beneficial,” said Ryan Albuqerque, co-founder of HealthSaverz, an app that keeps track of daily medication.

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