Do you prescribe mHealth apps?  Should you?

If you are considering health applications, plan out how you would integrate the data from them into your electronic health record or workflow along with encouraging your patients to be consistent with the app usage.

According to a survey by Research Now, 16% of doctors prescribe mobile apps currently but less than half of them plan to integrate these new tools into their medical practice within the next five years. Of those physicians prescribing mHealth, they are implementing the apps for fitness and wellness purposes as opposed to using the information for treatment

smartphone doodle Because many mHealth apps need Bluetooth-enabled devices to work and those that need them most like seniors with chronic medical problems do not own them, mHealth has a big challenge to overcome.  Older patients must become tech-saavy in addition to being supplied with the necessary smartphone devices.

Caregivers and patient advocates can help with this challenge. With the preponderance of smartphones around and the pivotal role they play in our lives, mHealth apps is a great solution for patient engagement.

Studies are lagging to prove what many feel is the answer- that health apps work!

According to Matt Tindall, director of consumer solutions for IMS Health, there are only 260 scientific studies published on specific apps.

Steven Steinhubl, MD, director of digital medicine at the Scripps Translational Science Institute pointed out in an interview with the Institute for Health Technology Transformation, that proof of health apps effectiveness is minimal.

Worse yet, some professionals question the validity of data recorded in the smart devices and apps. (e.g. blood pressure readings) Skin lesions were found to be misinterpreted.

With doubts presiding in many physicians’ minds when it comes to apps sold commercially, some healthcare systems are devising their own apps according to David Collins, senior director of health information systems for the Health Information Management and Systems Society.  Most medical groups find development of mobile apps to be too expensive to pursue however. Ten percent of healthcare groups like the Cleveland Clinic,  have app stores.

The thing is, everyone on the “team” needs to evaluate health apps as we move forward.  That includes not only the patient but the physician, nurse practitioner, medical assistants and caregivers. Only in this way can we determine what works best in helping patients.  There is a big uphill curve in learning but one that we should all climb!

Stay tune for the next post which further discusses apps.

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