Keeping up with your health from your phone

Posted at 11:05 PM, Apr 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-02 00:06:02-04

When Heather Brooker's daughter doesn't feel well she whips out her phone to take her temperature.

"It's a great tool for me because a lot of times, when your child is sick, you forget things because you're so focused on them," she said.

Brooker's smartphone is connected through an app with a Kinsa Thermometer. It registers whether little Channing has a fever, then logs it, along with any medications or symptoms she has, and sends it straight to her doctor if she wants.

"I don't have to get out a pen and notepad and start writing things down.  It's all right there at my fingertips," Brooker said. 

It's just one of many new devices exploding in high tech medicine.  Some pregnancy tests now have apps that sync with the kit to help deliver the results. There are connected Epi Pen cases that sound an alarm to make sure those who need them never leave home without it. 

There's even a Band-Aid like sticker from Loreal that tells you when you're getting too much sun.  You simply photograph it and upload it to an app.

Pan Dixon, of the World Privacy Forum wants people to know there can be potential downsides with some connected medicine cabinet items.

"The questions to ask in this situation are, 'Ok, who gets this information and what information are they getting?'" Dixon said.

In some cases, it may not even be medical data being collected.

"There is a medical app, and it, in addition to other fields it collects," Dixon said. "It collects your SMS metadata, so what that means is that it collects everyone who you've called, their phone number, and it collects how long you talked to them and how often."

A recent study found privacy policies on health apps are often weak or completely missing.  Also know that health innovations are necessarily covered under health privacy laws, or HIPPA.

"If I take my medical information, and I give it to someone who is not a doctor and not covered under HIPAA, it'd be like just, you know, giving that person, you know, any piece of information. They're not, not bound by that privacy law," Dixon said.

Dixon makes it clear, the devices can be life-changing, just know your risk.  As for Brooker, she says she's not too worried about anyone stealing her information.

"Everybody's moving more toward tech-based things.  Everyone wants life to be a little bit easier," she said. 

Dixon says this is especially important if the device is used as part of a wellness program at work, or you're looking for insurance coverage.  In that case, the device you are using to assist you in your health may be tattling on you in a way that you don't want.  Dixon says most of the time, there's not going to be a problem, but you want to be certain, so double-check. where the data goes.

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