Be careful about diagnostic health apps

There is tremendous potential with using apps and connectivity to improve health care. We can now accomplish incredible things using today’s technology, but there will be limits.

Here’s an article about how four new apps for skin care fared when tested to identify melanoma. Three of the four had very poor ratings, but the reason is very interesting.

Here’s the important thing: The three apps that failed to spot melanomas 30% of the time all use digital image analysis techniques. Computers decide whether a mole is cancerous or not. The fourth app actually sends images to a dermatologist, who replies with an evaluation in 24 hours. That fourth app correctly identified 52 out of 53 melanomas that researchers sent along. Such accuracy doesn’t come cheap–the app charges $5 per image, which is enough to drive many people towards the cheaper digital image analysis apps (they ranged from free to $4.99, with no individual charge per lesion).

The key here is that software and machines can only take us so far, at least with today’s technology. Apps like this work best when there is a human component. I suspect that the machine can handle the very easy cases, but then we need an expert to make the tough calls.

So get excited, but stay wary when you hear some of these claims.

Best of the Web: App reviews

We’re taking a trip around the web to find sites with informative and entertaining app reviews. With the explosion of smartphones and social media, apps are now everywhere, and younger kids view them as ubiquitous as television. For the rest of us, it’s amazing how one app can make our life easier and completely change the way we’ve done something for years. Other are just fun as hell. We’re flooded with them however, so it’s always nice to get tips from experts around the web.

Gizmodo iPhone App of the Week
This powerhouse tech blog focuses specifically on apps for particular devices, with this one here for the iPad.

ZDNet
You’ll find an app of the week feature in the content-rich apps section of this popular tech site.

APP Chronicles
Tons of write-ups of free apps.

Bullz-Eye App of the Week
Bullz-Eye.com primarily covers men’s lifestyle topics, but this feature covers a wide variety of apps.

ABC News Technology Review
This tech section has an well-done app of the week series.

Social media fail – Pepsi alienates female audience with “pick-up” app

Pepsi ought to leave the dating scene to the pick-up artists. Their attempt to create a humorous app has resulted in an epic fail.

When it comes to dating, the difference between success and failure often comes down to delivery. And as Pepsi Co. learned this week, even a good bit of self-deprecation can’t fix a poorly executed pick up line.

Pepsi’s AMP energy drink released a new app — “Amp Up Before You Score” — which got into trouble with more than a few people for the way it approached the fairer sex.

Pepsi quickly took to social media to apologize, but by broadcasting the apology across platforms and brands (and including a self-deprecating hashtag), Pepsi helped turn the tkt into a tempest.

“Before You Score” categorizes women into 24 types — including “Cougar,” “bookworm,” “treehugger” and “rebound girl” — and then gives users conversational resources, namely wikipedia articles and other superficial info to help with pickup lines. In an additional layer of sensitivity, the app connects to social media so that users can share their conquests: “Get lucky? Add her to your Brag List. You can include a name, date and whatever details you remember.”

In one sense I give them credit for trying. Brands need to find new ways to reach their audience, but this effort is just hilarious.

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