I’ve always been a little skeptical of the push to get doctors to prescribe apps.
To begin with, it would be awfully easy for us to replicate the many problems of medication prescribing. Chief among these is the tendency for doctors to prescribe what’s been marketed to them, rather than what’s actually a good option for the patient, given his or her overall medical situation, preferences, and values.
Then there are the added complexities peculiar to the world of apps, and of using apps.
A medication, once a pharmaceutical company has labored to bring it to market, basically stays the same over time. But an app is an ever-morphing entity, usually updating and changing several times a year. (Unless it stops updating. That’s potentially worse.)
Meanwhile, the mobile devices with which we use apps are *also* constantly evolving, and we’re all basically forced to replace our devices with regularity.
A recent Pew Research study revealed that 7 in 10 U.S. adults track their health data (a growing number use digital health apps and devices), yet only 1 in 10 share that data with a clinician. This begs the question: in a world where consumers are compelled to share everything from thoughts on celebrity gossip to well-orchestrated videos of themselves being doused with buckets of ice water, do we have a sharing problem? Clearly not. We have a data access problem.
Patients don’t have a simple mechanism and compelling reason for sharing their digital health data with healthcare professionals. Likewise, healthcare professionals don’t have a systematic way of accessing actionable patient generated health data. This disconnect inhibits clinicians from providing preventative care, making more informed patient decisions, uncovering medical breakthroughs, and gaining valuable insights into high-risk patients’ day-to-day activities.
As an emerging and powerful market force, the personalized health movement presents an occasion to construct a revised healthcare system free of silos. We as an industry must consider this opportunity and concentrate efforts on bridging the digital health divide in the near term to avoid exacerbating, and potentially eliminate, health data portability challenges. So, how do we accomplish this?
The Case for Open Data
Recent open data initiatives such as the Open FDA, the efforts of the Health Data Consortium, and standards organizations such as Open mHealth have resulted in collaboration around how digital health data can be utilized in the provision of care. Open data programs like these are key to the future success and financial viability of the healthcare system by providing entrepreneurs, researchers, and clinicians access to large datasets and standard workflows to perform population analysis, aspiring to leading to discovery of otherwise opaque trends and causal relationships.