Entries in Smartphone (9)


Smartphone Apps Can Fall Short in Detecting Skin Cancer, Study Finds

(PITTSBURGH) -- Relying on health-care smartphone apps to detect skin cancer can postpone diagnosis and cause harm, a new study has found.

When researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tested four popular apps for detecting melanoma -- the most serious form of skin cancer -- they found that on average three of them incorrectly classified 30 percent or more melanomas. The findings were published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Dermatology.

Of the 188 moles the researchers studied, 60 of them had already been diagnosed as melanoma by a board-certified dermatologist. The study found that the accuracy of the apps varied drastically -- the best-performing apps diagnosed cancerous moles correctly 98.1 percent of the time, while the worst-performing detected melanoma only 6.8 percent of the time.

Typically, in employing these apps, users photograph the skin lesions they would like analyzed, and the app generates a response.

"Patients do bring these in and ask about them," Dr. Darrell Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News. "I tell them that the difference between these and 'real' in-office melanoma diagnostic devices is the difference of a toy car versus a real car. One you play with, and the other works."

The app with the highest sensitivity for melanoma detection, the study found, did not use automated algorithms to analyze the images. Instead, the images were sent to board-certified dermatologists, and users received a diagnosis within 24 hours.

None of these apps, though, are not subject to regulatory oversight, and although disclaimers state they are for educational purposes only -- to help users track their lesions, for example -- dermatologists worry that people, particularly those who are lower-income and uninsured, might substitute the apps' findings for medical advice.

"It is very concerning that these apps are used for diagnosis by patients, as it could lead to delay in diagnosis of melanoma, the cancer which is perhaps the most critical in early diagnosis being important for survival," said Rigel.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has responded to the explosion of health-related smartphone apps and announced in July 2011 plans to regulate smartphone apps that paired with medical devices the agency already regulates, such as cardiac monitors and radiologic imaging devices. In 2012, Congress passed the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, allowing the FDA to regulate some medical apps on smartphones. But which apps will come under this regulation and which will not remains unclear.

Given their accessibility, these apps could hold tremendous potential once they have been evaluated, said Dr. Meg R. Gerstenblith, an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University.

"If a patient were insistent on using one of these apps," said Gerstenblith, "I would inform him/her that the current study suggests that those apps that involve a board-certified dermatologist evaluating images of lesions may be superior to those that do not employ a board-certified dermatologist to evaluate the lesions."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


‘Bumping’ Your Way to Safer Sex With a Smartphone App

(NEW YORK) -- Let’s face it.  Teens have sex.  Parents may choose to ignore it, and teens may choose to deny it, but almost 50 percent of American high school students are having sex, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. And each year, millions of those sexually active teens contract sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and HIV.

Now one doctor hopes to curb the spread of STDs in this tech savvy group with a smartphone app that lets users “bump” their STD status.

It’s called ‘safe bumping,’” said Dr. Michael Nusbaum, the New Jersey developer of MedXSafe, a feature of the new app called MedXCom.  “If you happen to be out at a bar or a fraternity house or wherever, and you meet someone, you can then bump phones and exchange contact information and STD status.”

The app’s special feature, according to Nussbaum, encourages dating singles to go to the doctor for regular STD checks.  Those who screen negative can ask their doctors to document their STD-free status on the app, allowing users to share the information with whomever they choose.

An alarming 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur each year, and rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are on the rise, according to a new report released this month by the CDC.  More than 1.4 million chlamydia infections were reported in 2011, up 8 percent from the previous year.  Cases of gonorrhea were up by 4 percent, marking the second consecutive year of increases.

Nearly half of all infections occur in young people, between the ages of 15 to 24, a group that can be particularly devastated by the associated health effects.

“[Some] undetected and untreated STDs can increase a person’s risk for HIV and cause other serious health consequences, such as infertility,” said Mary McFarlane, an acting chief in the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC.  Harnessing modern social networking technology to prevent these infections may appeal to a younger tech-savvy generation.

MedXSafe is just one of several Internet-based programs devoted to easing confidential STD-status sharing between sexual partners.  Services like, whose slogan is Spread the Love, Nothing Else and U Should Know, designed by a former college student and his girlfriend, also allow their users to check on a partner’s STD status.

But could these services offer a false sense of security to teens who believe that, with a simple phone bump, they have the green light to have unprotected sex?

“It can take months for HIV to show up on a test,” said Renee Williams, executive director of SAFE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to abstinence education.  “So you can test negative today, go out on Friday night and have sex, and then get retested later and find out that you had HIV all along.”

The app does nothing to prevent unplanned pregnancy, and may even encourage high-risk behaviors that young people might otherwise not have been tempted to try, said Williams.

Nor is the app likely to be completely reliable, said Dr. J. Joseph Speidel, director of communication at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.

“Does it come with a condom?” asked Dr. Richard Besser, ABC’s chief health and medical editor, who’s also a pediatrician and former acting director at the CDC.

But the app’s creator said it does promote regular STD testing and encourages potential partners to openly discuss safe sex practices.

“We’re recognizing that this behavior is going to take place no matter what we do or what we say,” said Nusbaum.  “I have friends that are nuns and I’ve run this by them, and they also agree that it’s promoting safer behaviors.”

Although each program promises to keep health information strictly confidential, none are immune from cyber attacks.

But such attacks would not expose any users who have an STD, according to Nusbaum.  MedXSafe does not allow doctors to upload information about any tests that come back positive, including HIV.  A user with an infection is simply treated for the STD and then retested.  And that user is only confirmed STD-free via the app once subsequent test results come back negative.

Still, it is too early to tell whether these services will become popular with teens.  Lingering social stigma surrounding STDs might make potential partners reluctant to mention such an app when out at a party.

“It’s a big personal step to bring up using such an app,” said Noah Bloom, creator of a smartphone app called Jiber, which uses the same “bump” technology to electronically connect new friends.  “Who really wants anything in the way of getting lucky?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FTC Quashes Acne-Curing Smartphone Apps

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Smartphone apps can do a lot of things but cure acne?  Come on, there's no app for that!

Unfortunately, thousands of acne sufferers, desperate for any kind of relief, have been suckered into believing that two smartphone apps could provide the answer to their skin woes.

One app promised acne removal through blue and red light treatments.  AcneApp, which sold for $1.99 on iTunes, was supposedly developed by a British dermatologist.  The other app, AcnePwner, sold for 99 cents on Android Marketplace.  The tag line was “Kill ACNE with this simple, yet powerful tool!”

These claims caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which quickly acted to put a stop to the false propaganda.  

After nearly 15,000 downloads, the FTC got the marketers to "stop making bogus claims." It's the first time the FTC has taken action against a phony health claim by mobile apps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Smartphone Apps Offer Solutions for Sleeping and Relaxation

Apple Inc.(NEW YORK) -- Insomnia and anxiety afflict millions of people. But instead of reaching for tranquilizers or sleeping pills, you might be smart to pick up your smartphone.
There you can find apps to help you relax as some of the latest applications on major mobile platforms are focused on meditation, breathing techniques and even "Simply Being."
The apps use narration combined with music to guide the user through meditation and relaxation.
Other apps aim to lull you to sleep, such as "Brain Wave" and "Mayo Clinic Insomnia Wellness Solutions"

You select what combination of sounds, words and music opens the door to your shut-eye.  
One caution, though: the apps range from free to pricey -- so make sure the expenses don't cost you any sleep.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Concludes Smartphones are Habit-Forming

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HELSINKI) -- New research finds that smartphones generate obsessive behavior patterns, according to HealthDay.

The study looked at smartphone users in the United States and Finland, and found that people tend to check for messages and news regularly -- not randomly -- throughout the day. The study did not describe users as pathologically obsessive, although boredom and irritation can trigger the frequent "checks."

The study concluded that smartphones are habit-forming.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Do iPads and Smartphones Really Teach Toddlers to Read?

Tooga/The Image Bank/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An interesting trend has emerged in which app makers are marketing directly to parents who are looking to help their children as young as four months old get a head start on learning.

Type in "toddler" and "educational" into iTunes and you'll find more than 800 apps specifically marketed to children under age 3.

Toys 'R Us is now selling the iPad, and PC World named the iPad the best toy of the year for young children.  One town in Maine is even spending $200,000 on iPads for its entire incoming kindergarten class.

But do iPads or smartphones and toddler marketed apps really make young kids smarter?

Many parents like Mia Kim, a blogger and founder of a tech site for gadget lovers, are convinced of it.  Her 14-month-old son Finn has his own iPad.

"Around 9, 10 months he started really sort of getting in to it," she said.  "I think in this day and age, he does have a head start being so good at just navigating through his own iPad."

Kim has downloaded more than 75 apps for Finn and said he recognizes letters.

PBS did a study showing benefits in kids 3 to 7, but for infants and toddlers, there doesn't seem to be any thorough research into the claimed benefits of these educational apps.

Some pediatricians say handing kids an iPad is pretty much the same as letting them watch television.

"(We) recommend that children under the age of 2 don't have any screen time whatsoever," said Dr. Alanna Levine of the American Association of Pediatrics.

But Levine adds that if you interact with your toddler while playing an iPad game that may be ok for short periods of time.

While no studies prove apps make toddlers smarter, there's no clear research that shows they hurt children.  But for parents who can't imagine shelling out $500 for an infant's toy, Levine says not to worry.

"Parents are always looking for that edge to make their child the smartest but I think the most important thing you can do as a parent is interact with your child.  You don't need an iPad or a fancy tablet to make your child learn," she says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


A Smart Phone App for Eye Exams?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are thousands of apps for almost everything.  Whatever you want to do, get or find depends on the app that's available on your smartphone, iPhone, Blackberry or Droid.

Now, if it's an eye exam you need -- there's an app for that.  A new smartphone app allows patients to administer different tests, such as reading a digital eye chart, or to snap high resolution images of each eye.

The results are sent to the patient's opthamalogist via email, who is then able to use them to identify vision problems or to detect external diseases, such as corneal ulcers.

Photos of the eye are so clear and detailed, major external changes can be detected.  In fact, some opthamology residents are already using the iPhone to take clinical pictures.

Many experts applaud the smartphone app as very useful screening and diagnostic tool.  Information gained could be crucial in treating triage patients or preparing for emergency situations.  Others caution that remote eye exams are no substitute for thorough examination by a opthamologist.

There are also concerns about security in transmitting confidential personal patients information, and ensuring that the email accounts are monitored regularly and mail dealt with promptly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Smartphone Users: 33% Would Give Up Chocolate Before Phones

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Smartphone users love their phones so much, a full one-third would give up chocolate in order to keep using their devices.  That’s according to a new survey commissioned by Google of 5,013 U.S. adult smartphone users.

Additional stats from the survey:

  • 81 percent use their smartphones to browse the Internet.
  • 72 percent use their devices while involved in other media.
  • One in five would give up cable TV in order to keep their smartphones.
  • 33 percent use smartphones while watching TV.
  • 22 percent use smartphones while reading the newspaper.
  • 79 percent use smartphones to help with shopping, with 70 percent using it while in the store.
  • Nine out of 10 users have made a purchase because of a mobile ad received on their smartphone.
  • 95 percent use smartphones to find local information, such as nearby pizza shops and movie times.
  • 48 percent use smartphones to watch videos.
  • One in 3 users would give up chocolate to keep using their smartphone.
  • The average smartphone user spent $300 ordering items online with their device.  Twenty-seven percent or those orders were made through a mobile website and 22 percent were made through apps.

The survey, which was reported by, also found that 39 percent of smartphone owners use the devices while in the bathroom.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Smartphone App Might Make Food Less Appetizing

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Do you really need an app to tell you that certain foods are chock full of calories?

DailyBurn, a fitness social network, thinks you do.  That’s why the company has come up with the MealSnap smarthone app, which informs users of the calorie content of virtually everything they consume.

For instance, let’s say you’re staring at a slice of greasy, double-cheese pizza.  Just snap a photo of the meal in front of you and wait a couple of minutes while the MealSnap matches the picture with half-a-million food items in its data base.

Of course, the pizza might be cold by the time the search is over but you'll have an accurate idea of just how many calories it contains, not to mention fat, carbs and vitamins.

Furthermore, DailyBurn CEO Andy Smith says, “Users can then choose to share what they've eaten on Twitter or FourSquare, leading to social accountability.”

While Smith admits the process can be somewhat time consuming, it allows you to keep a food diary and may spur a psychological change that could get you and your online pals eating better.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio