Last spring the Greater New York Hospital Association's for-profit subsidiary, GNYHA Ventures, started looking into the mobile health space to determine just how it could help hospitals leverage mobile technologies to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. To gain a better understanding, GNYHA Ventures purchased a large number of Apple iPads, Corey Ackerman, the VP and associate general counsel of GYNHA Ventures told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview.
"We formed user groups and began looking at Apple's iTunes AppStore and the other app stores out there. We realized very quickly that there wasn't yet a niche place for healthcare apps. Sure, some of the stores have healthcare or medical categories but that's not enough categorization to be very helpful for locating apps for healthcare providers."
GNYHA Ventures announced this week the imminent launch of their own appstore, Happtique, which will provide apps specifically intended for use by healthcare providers.
Happtique aims to bring down the costs of purchasing apps in bulk for hospital groups by negotiating bulk rates with app developers. In an effort to make app purchasing and distribution easier for hospital groups, Happtique also plans to create "substores" for hospital customers that can act as a warehouse for apps the hospital has purchased. As a result, new employees can access the "substore" to retrieve apps their new employer has already purchased for them.
"The focus of our app store, of course, is to be platform and device agnostic. Happtique's first phase will begin next month with iPad and iPhone apps for healthcare professionals. By next spring we plan to have our enterprise deployment features and substores rolled out," Ackerman said.
Happtique will begin with apps for Apple devices, move to Android apps and then onto BlackBerry apps. Ackerman said the company is keeping an eye on Windows Phone 7 uptake, too.
"Our focus is to serve the hospitals and enterprise market, but Happtique won't be closed to anyone," Ackerman said.
Happtique is also closely following the FDA's interest in medical apps and is well aware the agency is weighing its options for regulating the market. Ackerman said that once the app store was made aware of any apps that didn't meet the FDA's approval, Happtique would remove them.
"We are not in the business of opining whether an app is 'good' or 'bad' though. That's not our role. Apple doesn't do that and others don't either. If the FDA indicates that an app is a medical device and needs to be regulated, well, that's a different situation and we can take it out of the store," Ackerman said.
If Happtique isn't deciding whether an app is "good or bad," it may lose out on what app stores today really lack: Curation.
"If it's related to or used by healthcare professionals, then we want it," Ackerman said. "We want [Happtique] to be as full as possible. We don't have plans to delve into whether an app is 'good or bad' at this point, since there are thousands of apps out there."