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Troublesome tech: new medical app leads to numerous misdiagnoses

For millions of Americans both across Texas and the entire nation, smartphones have become an indispensible tool, so much so that it has become difficult to imagine life without them. Their ability to connect us with the worlds of commerce, culture, and entertainment has only accelerated in recent years. Now, in what some have advertised as a bold leap forward, the field of health care and wellness has been assimilated by smartphones and their apps.

The recent surge in healthcare app development has not been without its problems, however. A new breed of skin cancer-detection apps designed to analyze a photo of a user’s mole or skin blemish and return a diagnosis on its possible malignancy, recently received scathing criticism from a group of board-certified dermatologists in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The majority of these apps, which feature names such as Skin Vision and SpotCheck, are relatively inexpensive and rely on a mathematical algorithm (not an actual doctor’s expertise) to provide a cancer “diagnosis” of a person’s skin. Advertising as being less expensive than an insurance copay and capable of saving a person’s life, the apps have grown rapidly in their popularity in recent months.

The problem, it appears, is that the smartphone programs work very unreliably, if at all. In the aforementioned JAMA study, a group of University of Pittsburgh dermatologists found that even the most accurate melanoma-detection app misidentified a malignant mole or lesion 30 percent of the time; the misdiagnosis rate for most of the apps was incredibly high.

As misdiagnosis, or an outright failure to diagnose at all a person’s serious condition, continues to cost everyday people not just untold sums of medical treatment, but in some cases their lives, the news of these applications’ low accuracy and misleading advertising is disconcerting to say the least. Those who have suffered from a medical misdiagnosis should quickly contact an attorney and explore the legal options for recourse and compensation available to them.

Source: Salon.com, “iPhones make lousy dermatologists,” Kevin Charles Redmon, Feb. 4, 2013

Medical mistakes such as a misdiagnosis or outright failure to diagnose a serious condition may not always come on account of a doctor’s opinion. For more information on how to seek justice in the wake of a medically erroneous opinion, contact our Bexar County malpractice law page.