The world of medical apps is still imperfect, these physician-bloggers say.
R. Kikuo Johnson
Thousands of medical apps have sprung up to cater to patients and physicians alike; for the former, apps such as Stress Check and Cardiograph let patients monitor their health data themselves. Provider-focused apps, meanwhile, allow for portable, quick access to drug information and medical literature.
But as with any new technology, the road to adoption hasn’t been smooth, say two doctor bloggers—and the field could use a couple more apps, notes another with tongue firmly in cheek.
ISLANDS OF INFORMATION
It’s rare that I see a patient in my office who doesn’t have a smartphone. My last patient visited to go over her MyFitnessPal.com data, as she’s still not able to lose weight. Other patients show me pictures of rashes or wounds.
Patients want me to participate and share in their activity and to see their data reflected in my electronic medical record—and therein lies the problem with apps. Mobile health care apps dangle the tantalizing solution to both of these issues. But for the most part they are isolated islands that don’t communicate with each other or with me. They’re only just beginning; FitBit, for example, now measures the steps you take and can send that data to MyFitnessPal—but not vice versa. I look forward to the day that they all communicate.
CERTIFY FOR SAFETY
While some might say that standards for the certification of medical apps add even more barriers to the commercial adoption of these technologies, there are substantial reasons for such certification. Medical apps present a new paradigm in health care, and new ways of evaluating them are necessary.
Right now health and medical apps are the Wild West. Patients and health care providers want reliable, safe apps, while commercial enterprises, hospitals and others will desire the apps they develop to meet standards expected of their CIOs, clinical administrators, risk management group and institutional regulators.
Certification standards will serve as a guide for app developers. If a comprehensive set of standards is available, the development process can be streamlined and economized. Certification might become a standard for reimbursement and formulary placement by payers. It’s possible that payers will position apps on formularies as they do pharmaceuticals. A certification designation might trigger a higher formulary position.
A LITTLE LEVITY
In spite of this seeming plethora of handy smartphone apps, there are still a few I have yet to encounter:
• Hold-It for Docs. Do you play the “hold for the doctor” one-upsmanship game of who waits for whom when you try to reach a colleague on the phone? After you have had a couple of chats with a doctor, the app learns to recognize your colleague’s voice, monitors the line, and switches to speakerphone only when your phone recognizes him or her.
• Visit-Minder 1.0. Taking a thorough history can be distracting if, like many physicians, you are somewhat compulsive. With this, your device starts a timer when you enter your exam room. Keep your phone on vibrate and you will be discreetly reminded to move on.
• PhonyPage 1.0. Most docs have had the experience of being trapped in the exam room with a patient who won’t stop talking. How about an app that emits a beeper-like tone? Make an excuse that you have been paged for an urgent matter and dash.
—David M. Sack, an internal medicine physician in Connecticut, at kevinmd.com, July 17, 2012