Technology has certainly become a part of our everyday lives; in fact people today often say they don’t think they could live without their Smartphones. An even further extension of technology was the creation of Smartphone apps, for which there seems to be an endless supply of apps for everything, even your health. Today you can find healthcare apps that can help you monitor your health, track your fitness and exercise levels and even claim to detect illness, improve your vision or boost your mental concentration. But are the claims the manufacturers of these apps make based on scientific evidence?
The maker of the app that claimed to improve the user’s vision, Carrot Neurotechnology, was recently called to task by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Jessica Rich, “This case came down to the simple fact that Ultimeyes’ promoters did not have the scientific evidence to support their claims that the app could improve user’s vision.” Rich further stated, “Health related apps can offer benefits to consumers, but the FTC will not hesitate to act when health-related claims are not based on sound science.” The company, Dr. Aaron Seitz, a leading researcher in vision science at the University of California Riverside, and his co-owner Adam Goldberg had to agree to pay $150,000.00 into a fund for customer relief and were barred from making deceptive claims regarding the apps claim to improve user’s vision in the future, in order to settle the case.
However, despite the FTC settlement Carrot continues to assert that there is more than adequate substantiation of its claims and that the app was based on existing, widely accepted scientific principals, according to a company statement. The company also stated that, “He (Dr. Aaron Seitz) also conducted three peer-reviewed studies on it.”
And though the case between Carrot and the FTC has been settled, the court of public opinion may still be out on the validity of the app designed to improve your vision.
Will Technology Create a New Health Model?
Another avenue of health-related app technology is the ones being developed to perform various diagnostic tests and exams via Smartphones. There are already Smartphone apps that can perform electrocardiograms (EKGs), detect ear and skin infections and according to Dr. Eric Topol many more routine diagnostic apps will be developed over the next few years.
Dr. Topol is director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, California and a cardiologist who strongly believes that in the near future patients, not doctors, will be in the driver’s seat when it comes managing their own healthcare. Dr. Tobol’s book “The Patient Will See You Now” in which he predicts that patients will become less and less reliant on doctors, by utilizing their Smartphone apps to monitor their day to day health, vital signs, and perform routine diagnostic tests patients will take on a more primary role in their healthcare and doctors will become more of a consultant role, rather than a controlling one. Dr. Topol who heads the Scripps research and education center in La Jolla whose focus is on the genetic factors in health, disease, and utilizing digital technology for health monitoring says the near future will see doctors’ roles changing dramatically, with doctor’s skills taking on more importance in the emergency setting and treatment of more grave or complicated diseases and relinquishing the day to day healthcare management to the patients.
Technology is Not For Everyone
For all his enthusiasm for the future of technology and medicine Dr. Topol admits that while the younger generations will likely embrace technology there is reluctance among older generations to taking on so much responsibility for their own patient care. Dr. Topol cites surveys in which he claims eighty percent of consumers participating in the survey said they want to have their medical data and take charge of it. And the balance of people, including some seniors say they are happy with the way it is, but claim the majority of the people want a new healthcare model.