Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Are You Demented? There's an(other) App for That!

"A team of clinicians from Australia and the UK have translated one of the most commonly used dementia screening tools into app form to speed up patient assessment," reports PMLive (here).

"The ACEmobile app uses the paper-based Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination (ACE-III) as its starting point and will be made available free of charge in forms for Apple and Android devices in the next couple of months."

This is not the first "dementia" (known as Alzheimer's Disease here in the US) diagnostic app aid for physicians. This video describes another app (for the iPad) currently in use in the UK.

"This new medical app is so accurate," says the voiceover, "that it spots problems while symptoms are still mild" and  "It's software that so sophisticated that it can distinguish normal forgetfulness from more serious medical problems in just ten minutes!"

When the app tells the patient that her symptoms are "normal for her age," she says "it's like a black cloud lifting."

The big questions are -- are these apps accurate? If not, will they do more harm than good (e.g., cause patients NOT to seek medical treatment when they should)?

I've written about this issue before. See, for example, "Some Unregulated Physician Smartphone Apps May Be Buggy" and "Reigning in the "Wild West" of Mobile Health Apps" and "Study Reveals Inaccuracy of Smartphone Health Apps."

IMHO, you must be "demented" to rely on the accuracy of smartphone health apps such as these without having assurances that they are properly documented and TESTED. Even apps supplied by reputable pharmaceutical companies (e.g., Pfizer) may be prone to errors (see "The First Ever 'Dear Doctor' Letter Regarding a Mobile Medical App Recall").

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