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FDA starts reviewing apps

Story by Katie Ericson

“There’s an app for that.”

It’s a common phrase, but with hundeds upon thousands of apps, it’s become true.

Now, the Food and Drug Administration is approving apps. However, the FDA will not approve pill or blood pressure apps.

“These types of applications empower the patient to manage their conditions in collaboration with their physicians by helping patients follow their treatment plans and to assist in gathering information that can be used by both the patient and their physician working together to monitor treatment effectiveness,” said Michael Andreski, an assistant professor of social and administrative pharmacy.

The FDA is going to focus on apps for medical technicians such as Mobile MIM, which allows different departments to share images with one another, Gauss Pixel App, which calculates blood loss from a picture of a surgical sponge and AirStrip ONE, which puts all patient information on one mobile screen.

The FDA explained its reasoning for looking at professional apps.

“Our focus (is) only on the apps that present a greater risk to patients if they don’t work as intended and on apps that cause smartphones or other mobile platforms to impact the functionality or performance of traditional medical devices.”

This doesn’t mean apps such as My Medications or Blood Pressure Diary are disapproved. There’s a list of apps the FDA isn’t investigating. They have potential to meet the requirements, but they aren’t dangerous to the public. The public can decide if they’re effective.

Assistant Professor of Pharmacy practice Andrew Miesner has patients that use apps.

“Last time (one of my patients) proudly showed me a graph of her blood pressures at her visits over 2013 and showed how they have trended down. It’s an electronic version of a health coach for her,” Miesner said.

The FDA intervention may seem unneccescary to some, but Xiaoyi Shan, an assistant professor of health science said that the matter is complicated.

“It depends how good the apps are and who uses it,” Shan said. If the apps are very reliable and useful, but the users do not know how to use it appropriately and efficiently or other medical systems needed to support the apps are not well developed. It will not be useful.”

All three Professors agree that while the apps are good for everyday purposes, they can’t replace a doctor.

“Getting the results is only one part of being a practicing medical professional,” Andreski said. “The ability to interpret these results in addition to physical examinations and gathering of patient symptoms and past medical history can be very difficult. That is the reason why the experience and training that medical professional will continue to be needed to properly diagnose and treat medical conditions.”

“Think of how someone could diagnose breast cancer without touch. Think of how someone could tell you it will be okay without placing his or her hand on yours,” Miesner said. “Touch seals the doctor-patient relationship , and your iPhone simply can’t do that.”

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