As it would happen, the technology of tomorrow will come with fits and spurts, pains and progress. Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of health technology. Whether it’s a WiFi-enabled pill that sends biometric data updates to your smartphone, or your doctor’s office via the internet, your mobile app that tracks your workout stats, or improved cameras that will supplement laboratory technologies, danger abounds.
In remote areas of the emerging world, these technologies may serve to improve health and awareness but it is important to remain skeptical as the technologies can be prone to error and trusting them at the exclusion of practices vetted by time and practice could be costly. These apps and devices have the potential to to radically change and improve healthcare. They are, however, largely untried and can enter app stores promising anything as the FDA is just now really getting into the business of regulating them.
Enter uCheck. The app is a creation of Biosense Technologies and offers “urine analysis simplified.” uCheck has its origin story in the distant time of 2012, according to the company’s site, as a conceptual brainchild of the company’s earlier product, a blood anemia scanner, the ToucHb. The device would allow non-invasive, instantaneous estimations of whether someone suffers anemia, allowing for more proliferated testing.
Dangers arise when these devices are used at the exclusion of the counsel and care of trained health care professionals. uCheck has not yet been cleared by the FDA for use with its urine testing strips. However, the app is still available on the Apple App Store. The kit for optical testing is available and retailers can be located through the device’s website. The device is registered as a Class I medical device but, according to a recent letter to the company from the FDA, to be used in conjunction with the optical kit, the product must pass Class II testing which is more thorough.
The takeaway is that while emerging apps and devices may serve to increase healthcare awareness, they are also new and largely under regulated. Thus, the new technologies carry with them risks and should be viewed as such, new and potentially unproven.
A lack of FDA oversight doesn’t stifle or slow production of the apps right now. New applications are coming to App Stores every day and while many of them are trivial or useless, some have real promise at helping improve healthcare. The problem is that the rate at which these apps are released far exceeds the FDA’s ability to approve them. So while the devices, of which uCheck is just the most recent but by no means alone, are useful in markets where doctors are much more difficult and expensive than smartphones, take them with a grain of salt and be aware of the dangers associated with relying too heavily on devices that are not approved by the FDA for the use they are advertised to perform.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.