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Mobile health technology knowledge hub

If you’re a health care provider preparing to succeed on your own, we can show you how to do just that.

Future of mobile health tech

The explosive growth of healthcare apps brings up important questions:

  • Can apps improve care?
  • In addition to FDA guidance on mobile health technology, how should apps be evaluated and approved?
  • How can their efficacy be measured?

Health care apps for consumers

With over 40,000 healthcare apps available for consumers, and very little oversight of app development, it can be hard for providers to know how a particular app is going to help – or hinder – a person’s health. This is especially true for apps that are marketed as replacements for medical equipment – for example, those that claim to take your blood pressure.

In a review of health and medical apps, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found that only about 10,000 provided information; less than half of those also provided instruction, and only 20 percent captured user-entered data. The authors concluded that with no objective assessment of the utility and value of healthcare apps, “patients and physicians must navigate a maze of apps with little guidance.”1

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released much-debated guidelines in 2013 to help mobile app developers determine whether their product would require oversight. The FDA guidance on mobile health technology does not scrutinize all health apps—just ones used as accessories for a regulated medical device or those that transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device. As of July 2014, the FDA had reviewed about 100 health apps, while hundreds of apps continue to appear on the Apple iTunes store and Google Play store each month, potentially without federal regulation.

How should providers evaluate the effectiveness and safety of healthcare apps designed for patients? There is no easy answer. When it comes to healthcare apps, organizations should consider whether the app contributes significantly to the practice’s efficiency and outcomes. Other mobile technology, such as secure texting or virtual check-ups, may be more likely to reduce the need for office visits, procedures and hospitalizations.

Health care apps for providers

What about finding good healthcare apps for providers? With such limited FDA guidance on mobile health technology, how do providers select the best apps to use for clinical decision support? A critical factor is whether healthcare apps offer timely and immediate access to clinical intelligence—whenever and wherever it is needed. The best apps—and the ones most likely to optimize patient care—offer “one stop shopping.” They empower providers with confidence and information, with a minimum of maneuvering and tapping.

Look for healthcare apps that:

  • Empower providers with confidence and information
  • Provide essential, digestible clinical content
  • Provide multiple layers of seamless clinical content for “one stop shopping”
  • Are actively curated to ensure accurate, current, relevant, unbiased content
  • Allow providers to receive and review the clinical information–whether clinical reference content or informal advice from colleagues–they need, when and how they need it.

1 IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. (October 2013) Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare: From Novelty to Mainstrea. Available here.

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