Evaluation of the accuracy of smartphone medical calculation apps

J Med Internet Res. 2014 Feb 3;16(2):e32. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3062.


Background: Mobile phones with operating systems and capable of running applications (smartphones) are increasingly being used in clinical settings. Medical calculating applications are popular mhealth apps for smartphones. These include, for example, apps that calculate the severity or likelihood of disease-based clinical scoring systems, such as determining the severity of liver disease, the likelihood of having a pulmonary embolism, and risk stratification in acute coronary syndrome. However, the accuracy of these apps has not been assessed.

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the accuracy of smartphone-based medical calculation apps.

Methods: A broad search on Google Play, BlackBerry World, and the iTunes App Store was conducted to find medical calculation apps for smartphones. The list of apps was narrowed down based on inclusion and exclusion criteria focusing on functions thought to be relevant by a panel of general internists (number of functions =13). Ten case values were inputted for each function and were compared to manual calculations. For each case, the correct answer was assigned a score of 1. A score for the 10 cases was calculated based on the accuracy of the results for each function on each app.

Results: We tested 14 apps and 13 functions for each app if that function was available. We conducted 10 cases for each function for a total of 1240 tests. Most functions tested on the apps were accurate in their results with an overall accuracy of 98.6% (17 errors in 1240 tests). In all, 6 of 14 (43%) apps had 100% accuracy. Although 11 of 13 (85%) functions had perfect accuracy, there were issues with 2 functions: the Child-Pugh scores and Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) scores on 8 apps. Approximately half of the errors were clinically significant resulting in a significant change in prognosis (8/17, 47%).

Conclusions: The results suggest that most medical calculating apps provide accurate and reliable results. The free apps that were 100% accurate and contained the most functions desired by internists were CliniCalc, Calculate by QxMD, and Medscape. When using medical calculating apps, the answers will likely be accurate; however, it is important to be careful when calculating MELD scores or Child-Pugh scores on some apps. Despite the few errors found, greater scrutiny is warranted to ensure full accuracy of smartphone medical calculator apps.

Keywords: cellular phone; computers, handheld; medical informatics applications; mhealth; mobile phone; software.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Decision Making, Computer-Assisted*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Physicians
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Severity of Illness Index