Smart phones have integrated themselves into our daily lives. We use them for everything from checking emails to posting updates on social media and even tracking our health.

A quick search in the iTunes or Google Play stores shows thousands of health-related apps. Whether you want to track your running time, count calories or monitor your blood sugar levels there is an app for that. But who’s behind all those apps? And can you trust that the information is accurate? Here’s what you need to know before putting your health in the care of a mobile app.

Incorrect dosages and values

Trusting your dosages and calculations to an app can be a risky venture. In 2012, Sanofi Aventis recalled its diabetes app because it was causing miscalculated insulin dosages. Pfizer also recalled a rheumatology calculator app because it was providing incorrect values for the markers of disease activity.

Functionality and insufficient results

Apps are targeted for tech-savvy individuals, which doesn’t always encompass those who need the apps the most. According to Time magazine, only 18 percent of people over the age of 65 use smartphones. “Many of the apps simply don’t have the capabilities they should if they are to be truly helpful. Although some include perks like blood pressure monitors, for example, others don’t even offer adequate instructions for how to use the devices. Some only display a limited amount of information, and only 20 percent can incorporate data on things like exercise, diet, and other factors entered by the user,” says an article on Time’s website.

Pushing past your limits

Motivational exercise apps push users to go the extra mile and notify them when they haven’t worked out that day. This can be dangerous for those who are living with a chronic illness and don’t know their body’s limits. Most of these apps don’t have options to enter in physical limitations that come along with being diagnosed with a chronic illness. It’s important to work with your doctor and listen to your body when it comes to starting a new exercise routine.

FDA regulations

With the growing wave of health apps on the market, the FDA has begun to take a stand. In a USA Today article the FDA said, “that the vast majority of these healthcare apps don't pose much of a risk to consumers if they malfunction, and will not be federally regulated. Instead, the agency will focus on a handful of apps that turn smartphones into devices, like a heart monitor, or include medical attachments that plug into smartphones, like arm cuffs that measure blood pressure.”

What to look for in an app

There are many apps out there that can help improve your quality of life, and it’s just a matter of separating the bogus claims from actual research-driven applications.

Here are four tips to help you find the right app:

  • Reviews. Checking the reviews before downloading an app is the first step in gauging if the app is reliable or not. If there aren’t many reviews, it may be best to do more research elsewhere.
  • Who created it? Look at who made the app and do some background research on the company. This will help you determine if the information is creditable or not.
  • If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Don’t fall for gimmicks that say you will lose 10 pounds in the first week of using this app. If you are looking for real results, look for apps with goals that are actually obtainable.
  • Double-check your numbers. Nothing beats a trusty calculator. Before trusting your dosages to an app, make sure you’re getting the right numbers by doing the math yourself and keeping your own records.

An app is in no way a means for diagnosing or treating a health condition. Work with your doctor to determine if an app is appropriate and to ensure you are using it correctly.

To learn more about mobile apps:

4 Smart Phone Apps to Help Manage Diabetes
Diabetes Goes Digital: Apps to Help with Food Choices, Carb Counting
5 Medical Apps For Your Health