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Diet, fitness and more: tips for the right health apps?


Health apps: Use this checklist to find the right programs

The range of fitness and health apps is growing steadily and is hardly manageable for the individual. There is no subject to be said that there is no suitable program for it - and usually there is much more than just one. A checklist can help you find the right apps.

Thousands of smartphone apps for health, fitness and nutrition are now available on the market. Some measure heart rate and metabolism, others serve as a blood pressure monitor, pain diary, pill alarm clock or diet guide. The trend of digital self-monitoring is viewed very critically by many people. Experts complain that there are only a few useful health apps. A checklist can help you find exactly that.

Big differences

As the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) writes in a current message, there are more than 100,000 health apps on the market - starting with fitness and relaxation programs, coaches for healthy eating, more exercise or for nicotine withdrawal, to diagnostic apps and symptom checkers and medication management.

The offers differ greatly in terms of quality, benefits, transparency and data protection. Binding evaluation criteria are currently still missing.

The Cancer Information Service of the German Cancer Research Center recommends a checklist provided by the Patient Safety Alliance. It offers consumers help in classifying benefits and risks.

Most of them ready for digital support offers

According to a survey conducted by Bitkom Research 2019, the population is ready to engage in digital healthcare solutions. After that, two out of three smartphone owners in Germany use health apps.

Information on health, fitness and nutrition issues is at the forefront. In the specific case of illness, more than two thirds would be willing to use digital support services.

Around 50 percent of those surveyed consider digital care to be necessary to absorb the rising costs of the health system.

The market also has a lot to offer and new offers are added almost daily. But what do the apps really bring? And what are the benefits? Is the content really serious and scientifically sound? What about data protection?

Relevant criteria can be queried

The Cancer Information Service at the DKFZ recommends that you do not use a health app without checking it. The checklist from the Patient Safety Action Alliance can help with the evaluation.

This can be used to query relevant criteria such as the purpose and functionality of the app, the presence of test seals such as the HONcode, imprint and understandable data protection declaration as well as the form of financing. Another point: What do others say about the app, does it have many good ratings from different users or not?

The result is available in just three steps - query the criteria, evaluate them and recommend them.

“The checklist is a simple but good tool to be on the safe side. If the criteria are not met or only partially met, skepticism is appropriate, ”says the head of the cancer information service, Dr. Susanne Weg-Remers.

Sensitive health data is collected

Digital applications such as health apps can be useful for patients - health policy experts also say this. But at the same time there are warning voices, as many apps collect sensitive health data that must be protected against misuse.

At the end of 2019, the law on digital supply came into force. This creates the legal basis for enabling medical prescriptions of medical apps in the future. However, only apps that are approved as medical devices are suitable for this.

According to the DKFZ, the associated ordinance is now also available, which should regulate safety and benefit requirements. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) is responsible for the benefit assessment of the apps. Comparative studies should form the basis. However, many detailed questions are still open. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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