Medical apps are one of the fastest growing sectors in the app market, and a new responsibility arising is management of transparency and conflict of interest issues surrounding these apps.
Medical apps are one of the fastest growing sectors in the app market. Medical apps broadly encompass any mobile app that is health related, whether targeted to patients, physicians, students, etc. These apps provide easy accessibility to previously published texts, health advice, health monitoring for chronic diseases, treatment and dosing guidelines, etc.
A new responsibility that arises in the medical app world is management of transparency and conflict of interest issues. Generally, medical professionals are sensitive to concerns of industry involvement in medical education. There are policies in place that manage issues surrounding conflict of interest — regulating free drug samples, dinners, financial compensation, etc.
However, despite astute awareness when it comes to the aforementioned examples, there remains the question of why there is not more conflict of interest sensitivity in the medical app world. Consider, for example, an app made by a pharmaceutical company — it can suggest its own medicine for a specific disease or, even more subtly, list its drug first.
A recently published book, Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education and Practice (Lo and Field, 2009) lists potential sources of conflict by the pharmaceutical industry. Within medical subspecialties, medical professionals are beginning to notice the importance of authorship disclosure and transparency of the role of the industry (dermatology, psychiatry, to name a couple).
The paper sheds some light on the ethics surrounding increasing transparency for the medical app consumer.