Producing a medical app

Medical apps have great potential for supporting medical education. But if you're considering creating your own, remember that your ethical obligations are the same as those for any publication.

In its guidance Doctors' use of social media, the GMC states 'the standards expected of doctors do not change' because communication is digital rather than face to face or by other traditional media.

Doctors marketing a medical app, or any other type of app, should be transparent about their involvement. The GMC advises 'you should also identify yourself by name. Any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely'. You should also be aware that 'content uploaded anonymously can, in many cases, be traced back to its point of origin'.

As a doctor involved in producing an app, you are responsible for its accuracy. Paragraph 71 of Good medical practice (2013) states:

'You must be honest and trustworthy when writing reports, and when completing or signing forms, reports and other documents. You must make sure that any documents you write or sign are not false or misleading.

a. You must take reasonable steps to check the information is correct.

b. You must not deliberately leave out relevant information.'

In its guidance Doctors' use of social media, the GMC states: 'When you post material online you should be open about any conflict of interest and declare any financial or commercial interests you have in healthcare organisations or pharmaceutical and biomedical companies'

Also, as Good medical practice (2013) paragraph 70 reminds us:

'When advertising your services, you must make sure the information you publish is factual and can be checked, and does not exploit patients' vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge.'

Further reading

Designing a medical app, Student BMJ, Adrian Raudaschl, April 2013.

This guidance was correct at publication 27/11/2013. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

You may also be interested in

Student advice

The impact of social media

Billions of people use social media every day. Medical students need to be more guarded than most in what they post online. Careers may be at stake.

Read more
Student advice

A question of consent

A medical student was shadowing a junior doctor on a paediatric surgical ward. His duties included helping the junior doctor to clerk new admissions for elective surgery, and he also observed when the doctor obtained consent for surgery.

Read more
Student advice

Inappropriate prescribing

A recently qualified junior doctor was doing his final surgery in general practice before going on a skiing trip to America. He was keen to get home to pack following the late surgery session. A few days earlier he had slipped on ice and twisted his back. Paracetamol and ibuprofen weren't relieving the pain and he was concerned about being in discomfort on the flight and while skiing.

Read more