Viewpoint: Stronger regulations are necessary to weed out 'digital snake oil' from wearables, apps

Andrea Park - Print  | 

With technology companies constantly rolling out new mobile apps and wearable devices claiming to monitor, treat and cure various health conditions, strict standards are necessary to make it clear to consumers which of these tools are actually medically valid.

A new article in IEEE Spectrum calls for "rigorous standards" to differentiate between those solutions that fall in the category of medicine and those that are simply wellness tools ­— "the digital equivalent of snake oil."

Fortunately, some startups and larger organizations have taken it upon themselves to implement those standards, largely by taking steps to improve clinical trials of new apps and devices in an effort to make the resulting claims "less hype-driven and more data-driven," per IEEE Spectrum.

The Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative, co-founded by Duke University and the FDA, for one, issued a list of recommendations earlier this year to help tech companies and clinicians improve the quality and efficiency of clinical trials involving smartphones and mobile tech.

Initiatives like this are a good start since, per the journal article, "This is a brave new world in which medicine can truly become personalized. But to give digital medicine a healthy future, we have to ensure that what's on the market is actually therapeutic and not just electronics wrapped in promises."

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