In case you think the future for healthcare apps will be characterized by health information technology (HIT) “dead zones” of free downloads, fun gadgetry and vacuous consumerism with nothing to show for it, you should take a look at this article appearing in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Systems.
If authors Kenneth Mandl, Joshua Mandel and Isaac Kohane are even half right, “apps” could truly revolutionize HIT. They argue that a superimposed “apps layer” ecosystem will demolish the “walled gardens” of EHRs and allow for true information sharing across clinics, systems and regions.
And that’s just for starters.
As your correspondent understands it, “Application Programming Interfaces” (or “APIs”) will enable multiple third party apps to bridge to legacy EHRs. That, in turn, will catalyze the creation of newer and better user experiences that reconcile doc and patient preferences with the current clunky one-size-fits-all EHRs.
1. A “mash up” of “risks, trends and trajectories” with external data sources, telehealth and decision support systems. Why should a patient with cancer and his/her oncologist use the same computer operating environment as a patient and a dermatologist dealing with a rash? Even better, apps can be easily substituted if a better one comes along.
2. Never mind ICD-9 or ICD-10, apps will be the “afferent limb” that links your unique genetic and phenotypic “diagnosis code” to the efferent limb of tailored treatment protocols.
3. Apps can collect and arrange the data from numerous devices at scale that not only allow for treatment compliance or disease management outside of the clinic, but the early identification of an emerging epidemic or medication side effects.
To achieve this, the authors recommend the EHR manufacturers not only retool, but adopt a uniform and open source approach to API development. Purchasers of EHRs consider should consider the future of APIs in their requests for proposals (RFPs). They also recommend that research funding be directed toward apps that can operate across multiple information platforms. It would also help if there was a “seal of approval” process for app development that wasn’t too closely tied to industry or too tied up in the regulatory miasma of government.