Nonprofit Hacking Medicine Institute to spearhead latest health app curation attempt

By Jonah Comstock
08:03 am

The new Hacking Medicine Institute, a nonprofit that spun out of MIT this past summer, is launching the latest initiative to produce reviews of mobile health apps and digital health tools. The vetting will be done by Harvard-affiliated physicians, according to a story in Medical Marketing & Media.

The venture will curate the mobile health app both for consumers and for providers looking to make recommendations about apps to patients, Hacking Medicine Institute co-founder Zen Chu told MM&M. The groups argues it will differ from past attempts at such an offering because the Hacking Medicine Institute, as an academically-rooted nonprofit, can be unbiased in a way companies like Happtique, IMS, or HealthTap can't be.
"The way Happtique went about it, trying to charge these little companies to go in and do a certification, is the wrong model,” Chu told MM&M. “It's got be done from the perspective of an unbiased nonprofit-driven organization for it to be credible and trusted both by physicians who want to prescribe [apps] as well as from patients and consumers.”

Happtique shut down its app certification program in December 2013 after a health IT firm exposed security issues with apps that had gotten certification from the company as being secure and fit for physicians to recommend to patients. It was acquired by SocialWellth last year, a company that has worked with Cigna on its GoYou platform, which also dabbled in app curation. Over the years, we've seen other app curation efforts from Jiff and HealthTap as well as from big data company IMS Health, whose effort has been one of the most robust so far. But IMS's AppScript program is focused specifically on helping clinicians recommend apps to patients. Chu thinks the direct to consumer opportunity is real as well.

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“Patient-facing is really where the traction is,” he said in a keynote at an MM&M event, “and that's because you don't have to rely on clinician or hospital adoption, which is ingrained behavior -- they're so slow -- and that's why the best entrepreneurs and investigators in Silicon Valley -- tech investors, not traditional healthcare investors -- believe, along with me, that the digiceuticals world now feels like the Internet was in 1995. Because for the first time you can have a small start-up get funded -- pre-capital --efficiently and compete head-to-head against the giants in healthcare.”

The first curated list from the new initiative will go live some time this month.


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