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With Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ Health Research Institute estimating the annual consumer market for mobile monitoring devices is somewhere between $7.7 billion and $34 billion per year, it's not surprising that the marketplace would find itself chock full of apps directly targeting consumers, above and beyond those developed and marketed to healthcare professionals. But with technology clearly outpacing our regulatory bodies, how much attention is being paid to the accompanying liability issues
As someone who partly makes his living covering mHealth, I can attest that it's easy to get swept away with talk of mobile health's big picture potential. But, as Joseph Kim, a doctor of internal medicine and vice president at Newtown, Pa.-based Medical Communications Media Inc., recently was quoted in an Associated Press report: "Releasing an app is very easy,but if it is developed abroad, the standards may be different than they are in the United States. For example, a recommended drug may be approved elsewhere, but not in this country."
Then there are the larger issues of liability as they relate specifically to smartphone apps. Adds Kim: "“If a patient uses an app on the iPhone, who, at the end of day, is liable If someone buys a WebMD Symptom Checker and there’s a problem, is the Apple Store liable Is WebMd liable” No doubt, both companies have disclaimers in place and legal arguments ready to go, just in case, but I'm not aware of any having been court-tested yet. Are you
And while so much has been made of the efficiency gains and cost cuts that promised to accompany healthcare's transition into a system that enables the right care at the right time, regardless of location--thanks to mobile-based physician tools such as Epocrates--the waters get a little murkier when you throw the plethora of health oriented consumer apps into the mix.
Not that I expect anything to change. At the end of the day, healthcare has already gone mobile. There's no going back now, so any liability issues will simply be addressed in the courts as the need arises. Some developers may adopt more meaningful strategies for limiting their exposure, but, in my opinion, the uptake of mHealth apps and devices will only continue to climb going forward.
Photo obtained from Epocrates, Inc.
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