Apple’s latest advertising slogan ‘There’s an app for that’ is a phrase that is becoming increasingly true. This is highlighted in the advert itself, assuming that everyone knows exactly what an ‘app’ is.
Customers can now depend on their mobile for far more than just texts and calls; you can now turn your phone or iPod into a torch, an optician, a reliable friend who makes sure you’re not too drunk to send a text – and soon a doctor as well.
Smartphones, which include iPhones, Blackberrys, Palms, Androids, and iPod touches, have more than 2,000 health-related applications already available. Examples include ones to help you give up smoking, test your hearing and eyesight, check for diabetes, count sheep to help you sleep, and track your blood pressure.
There are many applications currently being developed that will help people self-diagnose their health problems. Amongst these is an application that will recognise photos of medical problems, and another that will analyse coughs to provide a diagnosis.
This fast-paced innovation means that diagnoses will be made quicker and lives may be saved, but these advances in technology aren’t without the risks. They pose threats such as becoming obsessive over our health, misdiagnoses and, at the other end of the scale, unnecessary worry.
Daniel Jenkin, a medical student from the University of Manchester, thinks that the increasing availability and amount of health information that is freely available to people, not only through applications but also on the web, can be dangerous.
“Patients have the right to information, but they should have nothing less than accurate information that is supported by evidence.”
He says that the information culture we live in can cause unnecessary worry: “Sometimes people don’t get the answers they want, but instead of relying on technology, they can easily change their doctor and get a second opinion.”
He also worries that false information is easily obtainable, and can cause “unnecessary worry that can be avoided by just seeing a doctor”.
Aside from medical applications, there are thousands of other apps available at the click of a button, ranging from helping you find your car in a car park, to counting calories.
As well helpful applications however, there are also some rather pointless ones:
This app covers the screen with virtual condensation for the user to write on as if it were a steamed up mirror. Special effects include water droplets and sound effects.
An app that shines ‘bacteria killing’ waves of light on your skin to help treat spots.
An app that claims to be able to interpret what your baby’s needs are from their cries.
A chance to see how well your fingers can run in a 5 mile race.
You can set this application up so it sends you a fake text when you need to get out of a sticky situation, or fancy pretending that you know a celebrity.