The App Is the Outcome

flying cadeuciiYour correspondent is avidly learning about health apps for patients.

As described here, half of U.S adults now own a smartphone, half of them use them to obtain health information and approximately a fifth have at least one health app loaded on their device.

Regular  readers are well aware of the potential for health apps, including lay-person education, the promotion of consumer behavior change, increased consumer-provider connectivity with greater access to care, better medication compliance as well as medication reconciliation, increased self-care, greater quality and lower costs.

But as this author’s e-health experience grows, he has encountered two under-recognized features of apps that – in his opinion –  are sure to also drive their adoption:

1. The Provider App Arms Race:  As  competition for loyal patients grows, health systems, care organizations, insurers, buyers and provider networks are going to expect their apps to create greater consumer “stickiness.”  For example, offering a tablet with a pre-configured app may enable hospitals to not only reduce readmissions, but enhance their brand recognition.

2. The App Is the Outcome: It will take years for science to prove that apps cause better outcomes. While lingering skepticism will prove to be another bonanza for outfits like this, the luster of smart-device gadgetry will be too much to resist. As a result, it’s only a matter of time until Boards and their CEOs pressure their management teams to launch their own app.  While the electronic record and big data are important advances, let’s face it: they’re in the background. There’s nothing like a patient-facing app to remind customers, families and providers of the organization’s health tech chops.

Jaan Sidorov, MD, is a primary care internist and former Medical Director at Geisinger Health Plan with over 20 years experience in primary care, disease management and population-based care coordination. He shares his knowledge and insights at Disease Management Care Blog, where an earlier version of this post first appeared.

4 replies »

  1. Bob, could you either online or offline (alewis@dismgmt.com) direct me to that cite about how much insurance companies make pushing wellness? thanks.

    And Jaan, thanks again for the posting.

  2. Jaan, howdy! Enjoyed your post and took it “tongue in cheek”. Someday we will have “big data” about apps. Funny how love of technology trumps love of knowing. As consultant, I see systems selling rather than proving their worth. That will change, I expect, as patients/people become more confident in themselves as decision makers and push the system for something they can hold on to and understand. Can’t ask people to help out medical care unless they know what they are buying.

    I will not address the wellness kick much but Al Lewis is always on the mark. Even wellness is a marketers delight. Just saw a break down on how much, and how, an insurance company makes dollars by pushing a wellness program. Wellness should have nothing to do with a national agenda or debate about medical care; it is a personal thing. I am responsible for my health, physicians and the systems they run in should focus on medical care. Removing “health” from our discussions and payment schemes may be needed to begin moving forward for better “medical” care. Thanks for the post.

  3. Hi Jaan, thanks as always for the shout-out to “outfits like this.” Since the appearance of our “outfit” you’ll be interested to hear that only one member of the “wellness ignorati” has publicly made any phony savings claim, or at least any phony savings claim with enough data to refute. (The exception, of course, would be Ron Goetzel, who has doubled down on his support of the Nebraska/Health Fitness Corp acknowledged fraud first exposed right here in THCB, by calling it a “best practice.) By contrast, prior to They Said What those phony claims were being made at the rate of about 1 a month.

    In terms of the substance of your piece, no disagreemnt here. There is certianly plenty of potential and some small number of apps will do very well because they truly add value. We just can’t know how many and which ones, though. in the immortal words of the great philosopher Yogi Berra, it’s hard to make predictions, espectially about the future.