Ready for Pickup: Physician-Prescribed mHealth Apps

Physicians aren't just prescribing medication anymore. With the rise of mHealth and clinical apps and with patients becoming more engaged and involved in their healthcare planning, such apps have become the latest physician-administered remedies.

According to a Manhattan Research survey, one in three physicians have recommended an app to their patients, and a BBC report found general practitioners were suggesting apps to help patients manage their chronic conditions.

Matt Brick Wall Casual 1But with 40,000 mHealth apps in the Apple store and Google Play, how do physicians sift through to determine the best offerings for their patients?

IMS Health developed AppScript, an mHealth platform, to do just this. AppScript mines through the tens of thousands of available apps and evaluates them based on patient and peer reviews, download volumes and clinical outcomes, among other elements. Healthcare providers can then determine which apps are best suited for their particular patients based on individual treatment preferences or even population health, meaning healthcare providers in a Chicago hospital will see different apps than healthcare providers in Bismarck, N.D., says Matt Tindall, global director of consumer solutions at IMS Health. "What we've done is curated the majority of mobile health apps, scored them, and now provide administrators or leading nurses, pharmacists and physicians with information that can be used to help them to prescribe apps to the right patients at the right time."

Beyond keeping up with healthcare's digital evolution, Mr. Tindall says prescribing apps to patients is another way to develop the patient-provider relationship.

"Most people talk about the transition from fee to value in the healthcare system, and as more people become focused on how to provide real value, they transition to thinking about options for patient engagement," Mr. Tindall says. "Naturally, an app in the patient's pocket is the best next step to making sure that all across a patient's treatment journey there's a touchpoint and that someone is following up with these patients."

While many mHealth apps are geared toward diet and exercise, Mr. Tindall says the landscape of apps is shifting to include those more clinically focused, such as apps connected to drugs or are clinically or medically oriented toward a certain program or device. Such apps are those that can truly have an effect on the physician-patient relationship as well as serve as a reporting and monitoring system, though the market is still in preliminary stages.

"We're early on the app maturity curve," Mr. Tindall says. "We're still in many ways producing apps that aren't as sophisticated as they could be."

Not only are these types of apps still in development and the market slowly maturing, but Mr. Tindall suggests such a market could pave the way for newly needed healthcare provider jobs, ones that aggregate and make sense of the abundance of big data these apps are capturing.

"If you look three to five years in the future, from all we can see, there should be a combination of things a patient might use that might include apps and wearables, more clinically and medically oriented that report back to a central system or an automated system," Mr. Tindall says. "Someone's triaging the highest priority of events in the system. I don't think that position exists today in hospital systems, but certainly I can see the opportunity."

More Articles on mHealth Apps:

4 Recently Launched mHealth Apps
80% of Consumers Open to Healthcare Interactions on Smartphones
Clinical mHealth Devices to Surpass Consumer-Facing Devices by 2023

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