HealthDay News — More than one-third of health-care providers have suggested using mobile health apps (mHealth apps) to improve patient outcomes, according to an article by Ken Terry in Medical Economics.

Only half of these clinicians recommended a specific app, noted Terry, and the majority of those apps focused on health and fitness. Research suggested that providers were unsure of which app to recommend.

“There’s a fear of liability if [providers] don’t know what they’re talking about. So they tend to be very general and say, ‘It’s probably worth looking at this category to help you track something because you need to lose 10 pounds or you need to be more active’,” explained Joseph Kvedar, MD, of the Center for Connected Health in an interview with Terry.

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Little evidence has been published on the clinical effectiveness of mHealth apps; however, Terry reported this information may not be necessary for doctors to recommend apps that help patients exercise, diet, or quit smoking.

“But such evidence is essential for [providers] who want to prescribe apps for chronic conditions,” added Terry.

Currently, the FDA has approved nearly 100 mHealth apps and has issued guidance to describe the types of mobile health apps the agency would regulate in the future, such as apps that convert a mobile platform (like a smart phone) into an electro-cardiogram (ECG) machine and apps that are designed to be accessories to FDA-regulated devices.

“Physicians’ acceptance of mobile health apps and related tracking devices is clearly growing along with mobile’s influence on everyday life,” said Terry.