Prescriptions aren't just for medications any more. An increasing number of doctors are prescribing apps for their patients.
But picking from a database of more than 160,000 apps – and growing – is a challenge for the time-constrained doctor.
That's where IMS Health comes in. Two years ago, the Danbury, Conn.-based mHealth developer launched AppScript, which collates and curates the apps that doctors are most interested in prescribing. And in a deal announced last month, that platform is now available to the 225,000+ physicians on the QuantiaMD Physician Engagement Platform, giving them a means of choosing and delivering a digital prescription to a patient's mobile device within seconds.
"Doctors are getting progressively more comfortable prescribing apps," Matt Tindall, general manager of IMS Health's consumer solutions business, told mHealth News. "But they need help picking specific treatment and therapies for their patients."
Tindall said AppScript started with some 40,000 apps in 2013 and now sifts through a market of more than 160,000; of that number, some 65,000 have been identified as healthcare-specific. Those apps are then subjected to a rigorous vetting process that takes into account functionality, developer history, clinical effectiveness and reviews from both consumers and providers.
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Then QuantiaMD steps in. Some 34 percent of all U.S. physicians are registered on the network, officials say, and spend an average of 20 minutes a day on the site.
“QuantiaMD is designed to help physicians make better clinical decisions for their patients,” Dan Malloy, executive vice president of the Waltham, Mass.-based network, said in a recent press release announcing the partnership. “We are thrilled to be partnering with AppScript, which will offer our active physician community easy access to a suite of over 65,000 healthcare-specific apps, backed by an organization they can trust. We believe members of our physician community – over half of which visit QuantiaMD from a mobile device – will understand and appreciate the value AppScript will bring to their practice, and to the health of the patients they serve.”
According to Tindall, IMS Health surveys indicate roughly 90 percent of physicians want to prescribe apps to their patients, but only one of every three actually do. That's because they're overwhelmed by the volume of healthcare-related apps and the effort involved in picking which apps would best be suited for their patients.
On the flip side, roughly 90 percent of consumers want their doctors to give them mHealth tools, but they need motivation and continued engagement. Of those who do download apps, only about 20 percent are still using them after one month.
"We are simplifying an otherwise complex mobile health market for physicians and patients," Tindall said in the press release.
The prescription process is quite simple. During the patient visit, the doctor asks whether the patient has an Android- or iOS-based mobile device, then picks the appropriate app from AppScript and sends either a text message or e-mail. The patient then accesses that app through a secure PIN.
The physician can then use AppScript to monitor all patient apps, checking to see how often they've been used.
"The platform enables doctors to pick the right app for the right patient," Tindall told Medical Practice Insider, a sister publication of mHealth News and member of the HIMSS Media Group. "They have special knowledge to help find what might work for a specific patient."
"With electronic delivery, the patient doesn't forget the name of the app and there's no confusion about which operating system they have. It's easy for the patient to download the app, and the patient continues to use it because their doctor told them to."
"Population health is not only about identifying consumers and providing care early, but also about getting patients the right tools and support structure that will enable them to be a partner in their own care, which is very different from the fee-for-service model," added Malloy. "We think these apps are logically going to fill that gap for health systems and health plans, where consumers are going to be more responsible for their own health, and doctors need the tools to enable that."
[See also: Users love health apps, docs hesitant]