Physicians concerned about “health apps”

UnknownPOST SUMMARY: According to the Financial Times “Nima Ahmadi, co-founder of Bioniq Health, a digital health start-up based in Palo Alto, California, says: “The noise-to-signal ratio in this space (mobile health) is one of the highest I have seen. There’s a lot of people doing a lot of things without a lot of traction.” Indeed doctor’s are concerned about the new world of health apps and mobile health

David Bates, chief innovation officer at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, says such a day is a long way off. Most activity so far has been limited to fitness apps providing motivational information rather than truly medical-grade data.

“The greatest benefit [of digital health] is for people with chronic conditions, but many of these apps are not designed to be used by those people,” he says. The target market is affluent and fitness-obsessed iPhone user, rather than people whose lifestyles most need changing.


Yesterday I viewed one on one interviews with physicians in the Boston area to get some input for a client on the ever advancing world of mHealth.  The top line findings were disturbing to say the least…

1ne: While physicians agree that mHealth apps can help patients better manage their health they are very concerned that patients are making healthcare decisions based on these apps which they see as dangerous.

2wo: There are too many health apps that are unregulated and untested. A recent study in the Journal for Internet Health found, for example ” A lack of additional benefits and ease of use emerged as the key factors for the acceptance of diabetes apps among patients aged 50 or older. Furthermore, it has been shown that the needs of the investigated target group are highly heterogeneous due to varying previous knowledge, age, type of diabetes, and therapy. Therefore, a helpful diabetes app should be individually adaptable. Personal contact persons, especially during the initial phase of use, are of utmost importance to reduce the fear of data loss or erroneous data input, and to raise acceptance among this target group.”  In addition only 1.6 million of the world’s diabetics who have access to a smartphone or other mHealth-capable device – a paltry 1.2 percent of the target diabetic population – used a diabetes app by the end of 2013. There are 1,100 diabetes-related apps on the market today.

3hree: Mobile health should be integrated with EHR’s but only mobile health apps that have been evaluated and tested by the medical profession.

4our: Every patient is unique and mHealth apps cannot possibly take into account each patients medical history.


Pharma’s opportunity...

So with all the tech companies getting into mHealth are there opportunities for pharma?  You’re damn right there are and biotech and pharma are poised to lead the evolution.

First, they have to ensure integration with EHR’s and that physicians agree that the data is useful as a diagnostic tool.  Second, they have to apply a medical though process to mHealth apps that tech developers don’t understand. Finally, they have to partner with tech companies to make health apps easy to use for patients and communicate, via insurers, the importance of using health apps.

Only when these pieces fall into place will we truly realize the value of health apps.