By Anne Kokke
No matter what your complaint is, Doctor Google can diagnose anything. Accurate? Debatable. Convenient? Definitely. After all, a diagnosis is free and always within reach. An accurate diagnosis without the interference of doctors might seem a little too futuristic for now, but recent developments suggest that it could very well happen one day.
The amount of functions mobile devices and their apps can track is skyrocketing, allowing you to track your activity, heart rate, sleep cycles, reproductive health and much more. Some studies report that the tracking alone – without even using the obtained data – results in heightened awareness of health and, consequently, less disease. On top of that, active self-monitoring can offer health care providers real world assessments of their patient’s health status.This contributes to a more exact estimation of disease progression or regression. Such digitization of health is already playing a role in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
Now imagine that your mobile phone or watch becomes capable of measuring the function of your heart and lungs and plasma levels of countless biomarkers. Imagine that it can compare these values to a database of billions of people from all over the world. Abnormalities and diseases could be detected sooner, which might make treatments easier and shorter. It could save time, money and suffering for millions of people. Will this be the future of health care? Some medical professionals are warningagainst using health tracking apps; they believe tracking your health too closely can make you sickrather than prevent you from getting sick. They explicitly discourage routine checks for asymptomatic adults because they create “a potential harm from unnecessary testing”. They say more testing might lead to more false positives and incidental findings. More false positives leads to a higher probability of treatment– and the side effects that come along with it.
How do you feel about the medical apps? Are you a tracker yet?