Health apps may lead to misdiagnosis

An increase in smartphone health apps has health professionals worried.
RICK WILKING/Reuters

An increase in smartphone health apps has health professionals worried.

An increase in health applications available to smartphone users is worrying health professionals.

More than two-thirds of mobile phone users in New Zealand have a smartphone and can access hundreds of apps related to health and wellbeing.

Some health professionals are worried the use of those apps could lead to wrong self-diagnosis.

University of Canterbury Associate Professor Ray Kirk said there were many apps that tracked the fitness levels of the user, which were great in promoting an active lifestyle.

Kirk, who is based at the university's School of Health Sciences and was previously at the Christchurch School of Medicine, said he was most concerned by the apps used for self-diagnosis.

"Apps that, for example, measure blood pressure vary in accuracy and people should be cautious about using these, " he said.

Smartphone user Jessica Andronico said she had used some health apps to search for symptoms.

"I once thought I had diabetes after looking through my symptoms — I just freaked myself out, " she said.

Christchurch general practitioner Olivia Currie said she preferred her patients used health apps for researching their illness after they had seen a medical professional.

The Ministry of Health offers a Healthline Symptom Checker app that allows users to enter their symptoms and provides suggestions for courses of action.

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 - Stuff

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