FDA looking into regulating certain smartphone apps

FDA looking into regulating certain smartphone apps

AMARILLO - From monitoring your blood pressure to screening yourself for depression, medical applications on smartphones are becoming more popular.

Medical apps offer the opportunity to monitor your health on a daily basis instead of only during the occasional visit to the doctor's office.

"It takes time to go to the doctor," web developer Josh Knapp said. "It takes time to ask the doctor questions and doctors are busy."

Knapp says that's partially to blame for the huge spike in mobile apps now available on just about every smartphone in America.

It's estimated more than 40,000 medical apps exist today.

"If you can look up the information yourself and get the answer, it will save you a considerable amount of time," Knapp said.

But there's just one problem.

"A main concern is that the information out there may not always be correct," Patricia Turnbow with Care Express said. "The information can be misleading."

It's a concern shared with the FDA who's now looking at regulating these applications.

"It's almost like a death threat because that slow down development," Knapp said. "It's going to take much longer to develop apps."

Doctors argue applications designed to measure your heart rate or determine whether you're stressed out may be nothing more than a false sense of security.

At poison control centers, one concern revolves around pill identification apps.

By scanning a picture of the pill or entering a serial number, the software app will supposedly tell you what medicine you have.

But like other apps, this one could be problematic.

"If they look up a pill and it says it's not an exact match in the system, it will bring up the next closest match and it would be very easy for a person to believe that's what they have," Jeanie Jaramillo with the Panhandle Poison Control Center said.

App developers like Knapp don't believe technology should be a substitute for seeing a regular physician, but says there's a middle ground that can help weed out bad medical applications without stiff regulations.

"Make it to where you can opt in for the FDA's approval," he said.

The FDA began to lay down a frame work for new regulations just last year but it could take several years for them to go into effect.