Smartphone apps can perpetuate poor work processes

Fans of smartphone healthcare apps, it's time for a little buzzkill.

"Access to health information at the touch of a finger represents a technological advance leading to efficient healthcare service provision for some," Kristi Wright, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Regina in Canada, says in the Montreal Gazette. "[But] for others, it may serve as a catalyst for continued disability and dysfunction."

In other words, the wrong technology can perpetuate and even magnify poor work processes.

"Anybody and their dog can make a medical app, so it's really important to research the companies behind these things," Candice Volney, a nurse in Edmonton, Alberta, says. "Some of the diagnoses that come up when people enter their symptoms can be scary, and very deceiving."

Many apps do come with disclaimers about their medical accuracy. As Dr. Turi McNamee of the University of South Dakota's Sanford School of Medicine puts it, "In theory, if I give a patient the wrong dosage of a medication based on information obtained from an app, the maker of the app would seem to bear no liability whatsoever."

The same is true for consumer-facing apps. The Gazette reporter entered foot pain and cramping into a symptom checker on a WebMD smartphone app and got results suggesting conditions as varied as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, Lyme disease and anemia.

To learn more about the downside of medical apps:
- check out this Montreal Gazette story