Some apps, combined with an Internet filled with health information, might give patients the illusion that they can manage their own medical care. But how do we, as patients, decide which app is best for us? Are these apps and other health supports—which may or may not accurately provide diagnoses—even vetted by physicians?
An app a day keeps the doctor away—and this might not be a good thing
"It's hard for consumers to find good-quality apps," said Michelle Moglia, of Planned Parenthood in Easton, Pennsylvania. "I'm not sure how people are picking the ones they use."
I’m not sure quality is even an issue for many consumers, as only 33 percent of consumers report a willingness to pay for apps in 2015.
According to a presentation from AppScript at HIMSS15, there are over 125,000 apps that claim to be health-centered, thousands of wearable devices, as well as millions of content units (i.e., online health articles or blogs) out there to choose from. What’s a patient to do?
Are these apps and other health supports—which may or may not accurately provide diagnoses—even vetted by physicians?
Can any good come from consulting an app about the size and shape of your mole or a lump on your breast? Anything but worry? Especially if it takes months to get into a doctor to have it checked?
Lack of guidance cripples physicians
Health apps have been around for a while now—and the saturated market can be confusing for both patients and physicians. As a patient, I want to look to my physician for guidance. But physicians around the country are feeling just as overwhelmed as we are by the number of choices and lack of guidance available about mHealth apps.
Physicians who might see the potential for benefits from app use—in terms of behavior change and adherence—don’t have much to go on in terms of evidence or clinical guidelines.
Indeed, physicians face the same dizzying array of questions as patients when it comes to recommending mHealth apps. There are more questions—and options—than answers.
- How do they know which apps are good?
- How exactly do they recommend an app? Type it into a patient’s encounter summary (which will undoubtedly end up in a trash can)?
- Are the apps safe? Is the physician responsible for a poor or unexpected outcome that could result from using a recommended app?
- Is the app HIPAA compliant?
With all these questions and little empirical evidence or guidance from medical associations, many physicians choose safety over the possibility of engaging their patients.
Doctors have to be able to trust the app and the data that it’s collecting and distributing,
says Creagh Milford, DO, MPH of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization.
What if mHealth apps brought patients and doctors together?
AppScript is one Software-as-a-Service solution that just might provide some answers. AppScript, an IMS Health company, uses a proprietary algorithm to help physicians identify the best apps tailored for each patient.
But AppScript goes beyond just finding an app that might help a patient manage her diabetes. It allows physicians to easily find and prescribe an app to a patient, sending a link to the app, as well as any other device or content, directly to the patient in an email—all in 20 seconds, according to the company.
How it works
AppScript classifies and evaluates tens of thousands of healthcare apps for both iOS and Andriod. Each app is ranked using the proprietary IMS Health AppScore, based on functionality, peer and patient reviews, and certifications. AppScript seeks to improve patient outcomes and keep the costs of care low. It’s all secure, and even allows doctors to track if/when the patient opens the email or uses the app.
Photo courtesy of IMS Health AppScript (via YouTube screenshot)
According to Stefan Linn, senior vice president of Strategy & Global Pharma Solutions for IMS Health,
Today, there is growing recognition of mobile health’s potential to transform healthcare – to advance doctor/patient engagement and empower consumers to better monitor and manage their own health. That potential can only be realized through a systematic evaluation of the clinical benefits of healthcare apps, clear professional guidelines around their use, and effective integration of apps with other aspects of patient care. With these game-changing solutions, IMS Health is establishing an intelligent, secure infrastructure for mobile health, backed by our market-leading real-world evidence capabilities and the most advanced technology platform in healthcare.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.