Which mobile health apps do you use

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Health apps are booming

The app stores of Google and Apple contained around two and a half million apps on the subject of health, wellness and fitness, according to a survey in 2016.

This is not surprising, because health concerns everyone - whether older people want to get their illnesses under control with apps or younger people monitor their fitness.

And there is something for almost everyone on the market. In addition to applications that are intended to diagnose or treat medical complaints, there is a vast number of fitness, nutrition and wellness apps.

Even Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe spoke in view of the confusion of uncontrolled growth. "With more than 100,000 health apps, citizens are simply overwhelmed by distinguishing between good and bad offers," he said.

Often they primarily served the goal of collecting consumer data, criticized the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv). In Germany, almost every second smartphone user uses so-called mHealth programs, i.e. health applications on the mobile device. That was determined by the IT industry association Bitkom.

Medical benefit questionable

According to the Bitkom survey, apps that record body and fitness data, for example heart rate, blood pressure or the number of steps per day, are the most popular.

However, these measurements are not particularly accurate: In a survey commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV), a third of consumers expressed concerns about possible incorrect readings.

A study by the Technical University of Braunschweig together with the Hannover Medical School showed that "with the apps currently on offer in the categories of 'Medicine' and 'Health and Wellness', products with diagnostic or therapeutic requirements have so far been rather rare".

The information and evaluation platform Health-On states that there is a source of medical evidence or underlying studies in only 65 of the 640 documented apps.

Health apps are often medically unsteady. How shaky is often difficult to assess from the outside.

Business model unknown?

With apps for fitness and wellness in particular, one should ask oneself what the business purpose of the provider is. Because many of these products are free. Often times, the business model is likely to be based on the marketing of user data.

What is certain is that many providers from the fitness and wellness market are not so strict about data protection. This was shown by an analysis by the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center. 19 of 24 fitness apps examined sent sensitive information to analysis and advertising services as third-party providers.

A recent case from Great Britain also shows how popular health data are. A public hospital in London had passed personal data on 1.6 million patients to the Google company Deep Mind, including data on abortions and HIV illnesses. Those affected were neither asked nor informed.

Business model customer loyalty

Many established players in the healthcare sector also offer pure service apps in order to be more attractive to customers.

The health insurance companies are particularly well represented here. The AOK alone offers thirty different apps, from shopping guides to driving license trainers.

Other players in the healthcare sector have also had apps developed for consumers and patients. Some hospitals have apps in their program that guide patients through the administrative jungle or help them find the right ward.

More at mobilsicherheit.de

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