Five ways in which the medical app industry is maturing
There are now more than 13,000 health, fitness and medical apps available. In a previous post I discussed "Five creative and necessary ways of getting medical apps adopted" - specifically, incorporating medical apps in informatics, uses in schools for health education, government initiatives regarding digital technologies, medical apps in EHR clinical decision support tools and patient portals. These, however, do not necessarily lead to adoption of these apps. Some of these are years away. But the industry is rapidly maturing, and here's how:
1. Credibility is coming. The FDA has finally been given a go-ahead by Congress to move forward with its regulatory requirements for medical apps. Happtique will be initiating an app certification program in the fall after having announced its draft standards. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is evaluating the efficacy of medical apps. All these initiatives are aimed at differentiating quality and effective apps. Healthcare providers, patients and payers all are interested in adopting medical apps into their care models, but are clamoring for guidance. Hopefully, these endeavors will provide that support.
2. The distinction between consumer apps and medical apps is evolving. The vast majority of apps in the health, fitness and medical sector fall into consumer health and fitness categories. Curating and categorizing apps has been helpful; however, making the distinction between consumer-oriented and medical apps is, I believe, a crucial step in moving toward adoption of medical apps. This is not to say that wellness and fitness apps are not useful or usable by patients with diseases. Their clinical scopes of purpose and target users are different. The distinction by designation would facilitate use.
3. The development of medical apps, specifically for children, is important. Patient engagement is an integral part of existing medical apps used by adolescents for diabetes. Apps aimed at children with other, more severe diseases where medication adherence has greater implications are needed. The gamification and incentives are critical elements of such apps. In a cursory search on Amazon.com, Fisher-Price has at least three different model toy cell phones for infants, including simulated smartphones. There are many other companies in the mix as well. Children are given smartphones with games as mental pacifiers, much the way television was for baby boomer children. Can we develop effective apps for even these patients? Having effective apps for children and adolescents can result in a new generation of patient that is both connected and medical app-ready.