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Health app lets doctors offer advice via mobile

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A new health app is enabling patients to check on their medical conditions by way of their mobile devices. To help people get the highest quality answers to their health questions, two physicians developed a free app called iTriage.

“The app’s content is written by a team of doctors and health professionals, and the information available on the app has been reviewed by Harvard Medical School,” according to Fox News. The app lets users check their symptoms, explore possible causes, research medications and find a doctor in their local area.

However, the use of medical apps remains a controversial practice that could soon invite more government regulation to prevent patient injuries due to bad information and content errors. At a 2013 TED Talks conference, uCheck founder Myshkin Ingawale received an admonishing letter by the Food and Drug Administration that could put the technology in jeopardy without the necessary government approval.

Ingawale created a pay for users to perform a urinalysis check using nothing more than a plastic cup, test strips, and an iPhone. The mobile tests can examiner a person’s level of glucose, bilirubin, proteins, specific gravity, ketones, leukocytes, nitrites, urobilinogen, and hematuria present in their urine. However, the FDA is treating the procedure as requiring permits for a full-fledged medical device.

“Though the types of urinalysis dipsticks you reference for use with your application are cleared, they are only cleared when interpreted by direct visual reading. Since your app allows a mobile phone to analyze the dipsticks, the phone and device as a whole functions as an automated strip reader,” wrote a FDA executive. “When these dipsticks are read by an automated strip reader, the dipsticks require new clearance as part of the test system.”

Some medical experts believe that mobile health apps are heading towards more government intervention in the interest of consumer safety. Without government approvals, health apps may be more suited towards wellness – but not necessary medical – functions, according to fitness guru Samir Becic.

Becic advocates preventive steps aimed at avoiding health problems in the first place, such as leading a healthy lifestyle and getting fit. If you have to check your iPhone to monitor your cholesterol level, you’ve probably been eating too much fatty foods.

“The only real competitor we have is ourselves. [We should try] to improve ourselves on being more focused, disciplined, knowledgeable, providing quality work, healthy work atmosphere.”

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