How Mobile Devices Improve Patient Experience, Quality of Life

Google launches its health-tracking app For Iphones

Smoking, depression apps sell data to Google and Facebook, study finds

That mental health app might share your data without telling you

Free apps marketed to people with depression or who want to quit smoking are hemorrhaging user data to third parties like Facebook and Google — but often don’t admit it in their privacy policies, a new study reports. This study is the latest to highlight the potential risks of entrusting sensitive health information to our phones.

Though most of the easily-found depression or smoking cessation apps in the Android and iOS stores share data, only a fraction of them actually disclose this. The findings add to a string of worrying revelations about what apps are doing with the health information we entrust to them. For instance, a Wall Street Journal investigation recently revealed the period tracking app Flo shared users’ period dates and pregnancy plans with Facebook. And previous studies have reported health apps with security flaws or that shared data with advertisers and analytics companies.

In this new study, published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers searched for apps using the keywords “depression” and “smoking cessation.” Then they downloaded the apps and checked to see whether the data put into them was shared by intercepting the app’s traffic. Much of the data the apps shared didn’t immediately identify the user or was even strictly medical. But 33 of the 36 apps shared information that could give advertisers or data analytics companies insights into people’s digital behavior. And a few shared very sensitive information, like health diary entries, self reports about substance use, and usernames.

AHRQ launches app to help patients preplan questions for doctors

Digital health apps could save NHS billions, says report

The study found the use of telehealth and digital consultations removed the need for a National Health Service general practitioner appointment in more than half (56 percent) of cases, and a hospital appointment in 3 percent of cases if digital health through app-based tech was rolled out across the population.

Around a quarter (27 percent) of consultations via the app did not need to be handled by a GP and 41 percent could have been handed by another healthcare professional such as a pharmacist or nurse.

This indicated that if an effective pre-triage function was set up within a telehealth app, patient pressure on GPs could be reduced by up to 73 percent.

In addition, usage of adherence technology improved the probability of patients sticking to their medication schedule by 41 percent, and a whopping 80 percent of NHG’s patients surveyed said that if the digital platform was not available to them, they would have attended their NHS GP surgery.

The report explores and quantifies the benefits that a digital approach to primary care offers to patients, public health services and society, with the conclusions indicating adoption of digital solutions can have a significant positive impact on GP pressure, medicine adherence and medicine wastage.

Lee Dentith, CEO and founder of Now Healthcare Group, noted that with smartphone penetration rates approaching 90 percent of the U.K. population, the concept of putting control “literally in the hand of the patient” has clearly come of age.

The report also noted adoption of digital health technology among private employers has prevented 600 days of workplace absence (per 100,000 people), equivalent to an annual productivity benefit across the U.K. worth £240 million ($317 million) in value.