Monday, December 10, 2012

Prescription Smartphone Apps for Medication Adherence

When it comes to embracing new technology, we like to think that we are ahead of the curve.  However, our approval is only bestowed upon technology that provides a substantial benefit, especially given costs or numerous unavoidable advertisements. As illustrated in a recent article by Pamela Lewis Dolan at American Medical News, a new wave of technology will become the norm in healthcare by way of smartphone and tablet apps that will allow physicians to closely monitor many aspects of patient compliance. 

There are a few questions however for the future implementation of these “prescribed apps”:

  1. Does the app serve a utility that is worth the cost/adherence?
  2. How much data will the app produce for the patients?  
  3. Will the physician have the time/man power to properly utilize the data?
  4. How will physicians monetize the use of the apps?
  5. With data being retrieved without office visits, will this mean decreased revenue?
  6. As with any prescribed therapy, how does a physician ensure patient compliance?
  7. Will health-related apps be regulated by the FDA?
Physician-patient communication desperately needs creative improvements to ensure therapy compliance and persistence.  With the growing use of smartphones, using healthcare apps and the field of mobile health is only expanding in the coming years. The FDA has already approved a select number of apps to deal with clinical care and bills are currently in place to create an FDA Office of Mobile Health.  For a fraction of the cost for an office visit, patients can purchase an app that allows them and their physician to monitor health progression, collect critical health outcome data between office visits that may reduce visits to the office.  

We know medication adherence and health outcomes can be improved by allowing healthcare professionals to track metrics that normally are not monitored, such as heart rate, glucose levels, and calorie count.  This is not driving the conversation out of the exam room, but extending the reach of the physicians diagnostic and treatment capabilities.  With 10% of smartphone users having downloaded health-related apps, the practice of “Prescribing an app” will continue to catch on.  Generating a large market from the almost 1 billion smartphone user base will be as easy as posting that picture of dinner to Instagram. 

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