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mHealth Apps May Create Next-Gen Interoperability Problems

Posted on November 20, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

According to a recent study by IMS Health, there were 165,000 mHealth apps available on the Google Play and iTunes app stores as of September. Of course, not all of these apps are equally popular — in fact, 40% had been downloaded less than 5,000 times — but that still leaves almost 100,000 apps attracting at least some consumer attention.

On the whole, I’m excited by these statistics. While there’s way too many health apps to consider at present, the spike in apps is a necessary part of the mobile healthcare market’s evolution. Over the next few years, clear leaders will emerge to address key mHealth functions, such as chronic care and medication management, diet and lifestyle support and health data tracking. Apps offering limited interactivity will fall off the map, those connected to biosensors will rise, IMS Health predicts.

That being said, I am concerned about how data is being managed within these apps. With providers already facing huge interoperability issues, the last thing the industry needs is the emergence of a new set of data silos. But unless something happens to guide mHealth app developers, that may be just what happens.

To be fair, health IT leaders aren’t exactly sitting around waiting for commercial app developers to share their data. While products like HealthKit exist to integrate such data, and some institutions are giving it a try, my sense is that mHealth data management isn’t a top priority for healthcare leaders just yet.

No, the talk I’ve overheard in the hallways is more geared to supporting internally-developed apps. For example, seeing to it that a diabetes management app integrates not only a patient’s self-reported blood sugar levels, but also related labs and recommended self-care appointments is enough of a challenge on its own. What’s more, with few doctors actually “prescribing” outside apps as part of their clinical routine, providers have little reason to worry about what commercial app developers do with their data.

But eventually, as top commercial health apps become more robust, the picture will change. Healthcare organizations will have compelling reasons to integrate data from outside apps, particularly if doctors begin viewing them as useful. But if providers and outside app developers aren’t adhering to shared data standards, that may not be possible.

Now, I’m not here to suggest that commercial mHealth developers are ignoring the problem of interoperability with providers. (Besides, with 165,000 apps on the market, I couldn’t say so with any authority, anyway.) I am arguing, however, that it’s already well past time for health IT leaders to begin scoping out the mobile health marketplace, and figuring out what can be done to help with data interoperability. Some sit-downs with top app developers would definitely make sense.

What I do know — as do those reading this blog — is that creating a fresh set of health data silos would be destructive. Creating and managing useful mobile health apps, as well as the data they generate, is likely to be important to next-generation health IT leaders. And avoiding the creation of a fresh set of silos may still be possible. It’s time to tackle this issue before it’s too late.

Physicians Like EMR-Connected Apps

Posted on February 18, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new survey by vendor eClinicalWorks has concluded that the vast majority of physicians like EMR-connected apps, and many cases, believe that apps can improve patient care.

Of course, the research is a bit self-serving. The study announcement comes alongside news that the company plans to invest $25 million on patient engagement tools over the next 12 months, starting with a free mobile app for patients available on iOS and Android. Still, it’s worth a look anyway.

The study, conducted online, collected responses from 2,291 healthcare professionals in mid-January, reports SearchHealthIT.com.  Of that total, 649 respondents were physicians.

Researchers found that nearly all doctors responding (93 percent) think it’s valuable to have a mobile health app connected to an EMR, the site reports.  The same number of doctors said that mobile health apps can improve a patient’s health outcome, and 80 percent said they were likely to recommend a mobile health app to a patient.

So what do physicians hope to gain from such apps, specifically?  According to SearchHealthIT.com:

* 58 percent of physicians were particularly interested in the ability to provider automatic appointment alerts and reminders. (Six out of ten physicians said that at least half their patients would like getting appointment reminders from an app, too.)
* Almost half of doctors felt giving patients access to their medical records was a key benefit
* Many suggested that using apps to make appointment scheduling easier would be very helpful

The study also concluded that apps could help with patient wellness. Sixty-five percent said they could improve medication adherence, 54 percent diabetes care and 52 percent preventative care, the site reported.

Mobile Apps Becoming More Tied To Daily Care

Posted on June 25, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Right now, mobile medical apps are only 1 to 2 percent of the overall market for mobile apps, but that number should grow rapidly for the next five years at least, according to market research house Kalorama Information.

The market for medical apps sat at about $150 million for 2011, but it should grow 25 percent annually for the next five years, Kalorama estimates.  That’s nearly half a billion ($457 million and change)  in revenue by 2017.

What do you think of the $457-million projection?  Personally, I regard it as somewhat conservative if  apps become more closely linked to day to day care.  And there’s plenty of evidence that mobile medical apps are becoming a part of daily medical activity for patients and physicians. Just skim the excellent iMedicalApps.com for some examples:

* Vanderbilt University Medical Center has seen handwashing climb from 58 percent to 91 percent of encounters since a related mobile app and observation protocol were put into place.

* Track3, a diabetes planner and carb counter by Coheso, logs glucose levels, exercise, meds and weights, as well as calculating insulin doses. Perhaps even more usefully, the app lets patients e-mail a log of meds, glucose levels and activities to doctors.

* At CHRISTUS St. Michael’s Health System, they’re working to create an Integrated Nurse Training and Mobile Device Harm Reduction Program built around iPads. The system is being developed by Ringful Health, funded by a $1.6 million grant from CMS received by the  health system.

To  put things another way, what stands out for me from Kalorama’s study is not the numbers involved — it won’t affect patient care tremendously who’s making how much on an app — but the strong suggestion that mobile apps are making the leap from sort-of toys to core medical tools is pretty neat.

Centricity Gets FDA 510(k) Clearance for Mobile Radiology App

Posted on December 2, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

There’s lots of interesting things doctors can do when they can access medical data on the road — and the number of options has increased rapidly over the past year or two. Until recently, though, mobile imaging apps were uncommon, for reasons that had as much to do with corporate inertia as technology.

Now, the FDA has approved another such app,  Centricity Radiology Mobile Access 2.0, for DiagnosticCT and MR Image Review. Centricity Radiology Mobile is one of the  first radiology apps to get FDA (510k) clearance. (According to mobihealthnews.com, the first radiology app to get FDA clearance was Mobile MIM, which was cleared in February.)

The newly-approved app, which  available for Android and iOS devices, comes on the heels of GE’s release of the Centricity Advance Mobile app. Centricity Advance Mobile, released this summer, is an iPad EMR app aimed at small-practice primary care docs.

Not surprisingly, Centricity Radiology Mobile works hand in glove with the Centricity PACS system, which stores one-fifth of U.S. radiology exams according to the vendor.

The app’s design makes it practical to view even complex, large images, something that’s held back remote radiology image use. And it’s a commonsense fix. Rather than fill up the mobile device’s data storage device, he system allows users to browse images remotely without having to download the data onto their phones.

Having cleared apps like these is likely to give Centricity a new edge, as few EMR vendors have gotten to this point. While Centricity has the good luck to be part of GE,  a major medical device maker thoroughly familiar with FDA regs, few of its competitors will know how to work with FDA reps or how to keep the process moving. For now, smaller EMR  vendors with no FDA clout may simply be left behind (which is something of a shame, but that’s another story).

Rest assured that we’ll be grilling EMR vendors at the upcoming mHealth Summit (Dec. 5 to Dec. 7) about their plans for new mobile apps.  We’ll let you know what we find out.