Health apps not always reliable, doctors say

Only about 160 of 165,000 apps validated by FDA

Mobile health and wellness apps that help diagnose and deal with illnesses have become increasingly popular among patients.

But doctors say the apps tend to be unreliable and give out inaccurate information. They advise patients to learn more about the apps before downloading them.

Milton Meisner, 88, uses his iPad every morning to check and record his vital signs, including weight, temperature and blood pressure.

His stats are instantly sent to his doctors through an online health app.

Meisner’s app has been approved by physicians at USCS Keck Medical Center and works the way it should, but Dr. Leslie Saxson said that isn’t always the case.

“We see applications that run the gamut -- super responsible, great applications and applications that don’t do anything near what they claim to do,” Saxson said.

There are currently over 165,000 health and wellness apps available for smartphones and tablets, but only a fraction of them have been validated by the FDA.

“The FDA has approved over 160 regulated applications,” Saxson said.

She said many other apps on the market have not been been tested enough for accuracy, while others have gone completely unvetted.

One popular blood pressure app was pulled off the market when a study from Johns Hopkins University found that it gave incorrect measurements.