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iPhone Medical Apps May Be Medical Malpractice Targets

Posted Apr 11 2010 3:01pm

Medical practice is a big business. Conservative estimates put the total cost of medical malpractice at nearly $35 billion annually and, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, nearly $5 billion is paid in claims each year. With an average claims payment of about $300,000 and up to 50% of that going to the lawyers representing the patient, its not surprising that practically every show on cable television has at least one advertisement imploring patients who have suffered practically any bad outcome to contact a lawyer immediately for “the compensation they deserve.”

And its that aggressive pursuit of legal cases that suggests that malpractice lawyers would be receptive to new opportunities for revenue, such as in the area of emerging medical technologies. We’ve talked previously about issues of liability and electronic health record developers. And at least one recent report suggests that iPhone medical app developers, including electronic health record developers producing iPhone interfaces, should be wary that they could become potential targets.

Information Week recently reported on the Electronic Frontier Foundations’, a cyber rights advocacy group, battle against the restrictive iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. Under the terms of this agreement, as reviewed by the EFF, developers are not allowed to, among other things, market apps through competing app stores, jailbreak the iPhone, or reverse engineer any software component. Coincidentally, developers are not allowed to discuss this agreement either – it was only made public through a Freedom of Information Act request from NASA which had released an iPhone app.

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