Mobile health tools cause data boom, but accuracy remains a challenge

Mobile healthcare apps are creating a flow of patient-generated data in healthcare, but the data deluge is spurring researchers to double check validity and accuracy of the information attained, according to a report at Nature.

"In the past, stuff like this was just logistically impossible to do," Yvonne Chan, M.D., director of digital health at the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Nature. "It opens up a brand-new area of research."

However, some researchers and physicians are not jumping on mHealth bandwagon. Data quality is one concern, as well as unclear information regarding app user demographics. There is also the issue of ease of use and app complexity that some believe are hindering involvement and data value.

Much of the new research capability is due to the advent of Apple's Research Kit platform, which debuted last spring. According to the Nature report, there are now 25 ResearchKit apps for conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to autism.

A ResearchKit app focused on Parkinson's disease has allowed 6,800 participants to be involved in a research effort--which is triple the number compared to the most recent largest study, Nature notes.

In addition, last week Apple unveiled another new health platform, CareKit, which will allow hospitals, health systems and developers to build apps to better manage patients' health.

But there is a "drop-off in interest as things get more difficult to do," James Beck, M.D., neuroscientist and VP for scientific affairs at the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, told Nature. "There needs to be some value to the user, so that people don't pick it up and play with it for the first hour and never go back to it."

For more information:
- read the Nature article