Photo: Ronja Mårtensson/Swedish Radio

Medical Products Agency: Don't trust health apps

2:26 min

Would you trust an app with your health? If so, you may want to think again, at least according to the Swedish Medical Products Agency. The agency is currently reviewing a number of dubious health and fitness applications which could be potentially harmful and warns the general public not to put too much trust into commercial apps.

In recent years, the number of different health and fitness applications available on phones and tablets have skyrocketed. Today there are apps that claim they can check your blood pressure, your hearing or that can be used as a form of birth control.

Last year, the health and fitness app market was valued at SEK 90 billion according to the newspaper Computer Sweden and it's expected to grow by 30 percent over the next five years.

But only very few of these apps have actually been certified by any regulatory agency, and some could be potentially harmful, according to the Swedish Medical Products Agency.

The agency is currently going through a number of apps that it claims operate in a legal grey area and says that certain apps could even get pulled from the Swedish market in a near future.

"We're looking at one application in particular that purports to be able to perform a medical check-up," says Mats Artursson at the Medical Products Agency. 

Artursson says that there's a big risk that the app gets something wrong and ends up giving you a completely different diagnosis which in turn could mean that the suggested treatment could be potentially harmful for the user.

Sandra Olofsson tells Swedish Radio's youth channel that she would never trust an app with her health.

"I wouldn't want to put my medical journal in the hands of an app developer. Unless it's clear that it's a serious company behind the app, there's no telling what they could do with my information," she says.

Joanna Ekdahl is less hesitant.

"I like to use fitness and health apps to keep track of what I eat and of my workout," she says.

If you do a quick search for the word 'medicine' or 'health' on your phone's app store you are likely to get thousands of hits, and the rapidly growing market makes it difficult for regulatory agencies to keep up, according to Mats Artursson at the Swedish Medical Products Agency. 

"We work together with our European counterparts and with the American FDA, but it's still a very difficult task," Artusson says.

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