While digital health technology has the potential to reduce health care costs, it’s difficult to determine whether health-related apps deliver on their promise, Slate reports.
The issue, according to the report, is developing a placebo to test the app’s effectiveness.
“Without placebos, we can’t know the actual impact of a treatment because we have not controlled for the known impact of user expectations on outcomes,” the authors write.
The placebo’s effectiveness is clearly illustrated in a recent review of 18 randomized controlled trials for determining the effectiveness of apps aimed at combating depression, according to the report.
An apparent reduction of depressive symptoms were observed in participants who used a smartphone app when compared with a waitlist control condition.
“But when participants were assigned to use apps compared with active control groups — like journaling or using other apps that researchers did not expect would work — the comparative effectiveness of smartphone apps being studied fell 61 percent,” the report states.
To read the full report on Slate, click here.