Don’t go by ratings of health apps, it may not guarantee accuracy
A new study done on blood pressure apps shows that a high “star rating” need not guarantee medical accuracy or value. The study also shows that using these unregulated apps can give people a false sense of security, leading to dire health consequences.Updated: Jun 10, 2018 11:57 IST
Do you use highly-rated smartphone apps that claim to help you monitor your blood pressure? Beware, the high “star rating” does not guarantee medical accuracy or value, according to a new research done by the University of Vermont.
The study also shows that using these unregulated apps can give people a false sense of security, leading to dire health consequences. “People tend to trust user reviews when shopping online and use them to decide which products to purchase, but that doesn’t cut it for medical apps,” said Timothy Plante, assistant professor at the University of Vermont.
For the study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the team analysed 261 user ratings and reviews of the app Instant Blood Pressure downloaded from the Apple iTunes store, before being withdrawn from the market in July 2015. The results showed that the average star rating of the latest version of the app was four out of five stars, and 59% of the reviews assigned the app five stars.
Commentary praising the accuracy of the app based on anecdotal experience comprised 42% of the reviews, and 10% of the reviews mention inaccuracy. They found that 24 reviews claimed to use the app for medical purposes, with 11 people using it to manage their high blood pressure treatments, one person using it to manage kidney disease, and another person using it to monitor blood pressure after a heart transplant even after the disclaimer mentioned that the app shouldn’t be used as a medical device and is for “recreational” purposes only.
Six reviews came from people who claimed to be healthcare professionals, including four nurses and one physician who gave an average rating of 4.2 stars out of five. Eleven reviews came from people who said their health care provider — a total of four physicians and seven nurses — approved of the app. However, only two people said that a nurse and an emergency room physician disapproved of the app, and as a result gave a one-star rating. “Physicians need to be careful; if you’re saying you personally use an app, people will trust it,” Plante said.
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