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Healthcare Apps: Who's Liable for Injuries?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 23, 2011 9:48 AM

There is an app for everything these days - including for your health.

Developers have begun to create healthcare apps specifically targeted for both the normal consumer as well as for healthcare providers. Want to monitor your heart rate at home? There might be an app for that! As a doctor, do you want to look up some potential diagnoses on your iPhone? There might be an app for that too!

For patients everywhere, the use of healthcare apps creates the question: who will be held liable if an app is used, and an injury occurred? Would it be the app provider, the app marketplace, or the healthcare provider?

It seems that all would be on the hook. "The reality in this day and age is that both the healthcare provider and the manufacturer/creator of the app or device will likely be sued if the use of an app or device leads to injury or death," says J. Carter Thompson, an attorney at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC to TechNewsWorld.

According to Thompson, the reason stems partially from the cap on non-economic damages against healthcare providers that most states have enacted. There is no such cap for app developers - and thus plaintiffs would likely want to sue both.

App marketplace owners and other companies that distribute the app may also face liability. "If you have created an app marketplace, you have created certain expectations that the apps therein are of a certain quality and value to the user," explains Georgia Senator Josh McKoon, to TechNewsWorld.

Of course, plaintiffs would still have to prove liability, and demonstrate that reliance on the app is what caused the injury. Plus, some healthcare apps would be more susceptible to suit than others, depending on the function of the app and what it is used for.

And, of course, the healthcare provider - if they relied on the app to the patient's detriment - could be held legally liable if they committed malpractice. But, just because a doctor uses an app when diagnosing you or evaluating you does not mean that he's committing malpractice. Doctors are expected to consult a variety of resources, and apps can easily fit into that category.

If you feel like you have been injured by the use of a healthcare app, it might be useful to consult a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney in your area to see if you can recover any damages.

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