From The Editor | June 12, 2013

The Invasion Of The Health Apps

Source: Health IT Outcomes
ken congdon

By Ken Congdon

Ken Congdon, Editor In Chief of Health IT Outcomes

Follow Me On Twitter @KenOnHIT

A couple weeks ago, I wrote the article Can Entrepreneurs Save Healthcare? Well, I witnessed several startups trying to do just that at Health Datapalooza IV in Washington DC last week. Produced by The Health Data Consortium, Health Datapalooza is an annual event that brings entrepreneurs and government bureaucrats together in an effort to “liberate” the vast amounts of health data trapped in government databases and leverage it to create computer programs, apps, and other products that can positively impact population health.

Here are a few of the entrepreneurs at Health Datapalooza I found particularly interesting:

iTriage is a consumer health app that was developed by two ER physicians in an effort to promote patient engagement. Patients use iTriage to check their symptoms; locate nearby providers; make appointments; store their personal health records; save medication refill reminders; and learn about thousands of medications, diseases, and procedures. iTriage was acquired by Aetna in 2011.

Sproutel creates interactive games for children with chronic illnesses. The company’s first product is “Jerry The Bear” — a robotic teddy bear for children with type 1 diabetes. The bear promotes diabetes treatment adherence by teaching children proper methods for counting carbs, monitoring glucose levels and more. Currently, Sproutel sells Jerry directly to families. 75% of the company’s first production run is already pre-ordered and is scheduled to ship this summer.

stickK is a website and online community that uses the power of monetary loss and peer pressure (or motivation, if you prefer) to help individuals achieve their personal goals. For example, say you want to lose weight or quit smoking but lack the willpower or discipline to do it on your own, stickK provides you with a personal referee and encourages you to place stakes on whether or not you’ll accomplish your goal. One of the most effective stakes is the “anti-charity.” By selecting this option, you elect to contribute money to a charity you’re opposed to if you don’t hit your goal. For instance, if you’re a supporter of gun control, you would contribute money to the NRA if you miss your goal.    

Providers Can Benefit From The App Explosion

The three companies mentioned above have one thing in common — they’re all consumer focused. In fact, consumer app entrepreneurs made up a large portion of the attendance at Health Datapalooza IV. This isn’t that surprising considering the popularity of health apps among consumers. For example, according to a survey by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, approximately 10% of American adults with mobile phones have at least one app that helps them track or manage their health.

However, as ubiquitous as the consumer-app contingent was at Health Datapalooza IV, provider-focused entrepreneurs may have had an even stronger presence. The following are a few worth mentioning:

Aidin is a software application that helps discharge planners connect patients with the post-acute care provider best suited to meet their individual health needs. The solution automatically generates lists of available providers based on specific patient criteria, eliminating much of the administrative work and phone calls that previously burdened discharge planners. Use of the Aidin solution saves discharge staff an average of 45-60 minutes per discharge and has been effective at reducing hospital length of stay and readmission rates.

Allazo Health is a tool that uses predictive analytics to help providers forecast medication adherence and determine individualized intervention strategies. The program analyzes health and demographic data to determine which patients are unlikely to follow medication treatment plans, and suggests the most effective means by which to influence adherence (e.g. email reminders, text messages, alarms, etc.). Increased medication adherence can result in reduced costs, fewer hospital readmissions, higher Medicare bonus payments, and an overall improvement in patient health.

GetRealHealth specializes in patient engagement and connected care solutions. The company’s flagship product is a PHR platform (InstantPHR) that is marketed to healthcare providers. The InstantPHR platform includes a patient portal, healthcare provider dashboard, an administrative portal, and more than 200 widgets. These widgets include data visualization tools, care plans, alerts, reminders, journaling tools, surveys, and encrypted messaging. GetRealHealth claims providers that offer InstantPHR to their patients are better positioned to meet Meaningful Use and promote patient engagement.    

The companies highlighted above represent a small fraction of the exciting medical apps being developed for health providers. Many of these apps will come and go, but some will have a profound impact on care delivery and quality.