App Store Becoming a Virtual Pharmacy?

Recently I was reading about a series of apps that health app creator, Happtique, is currently developing. Basically, the apps would be “prescribed” to patients to aid in their treatment. The catalog of apps available will contain five to 10 different apps. The first ones that will be available focus on heart disease, diabetes, and muscoskeletal disease. Happtique is also considering the prospect of developing fitness and wellness apps.

Doctors who prescribe these apps to patients will be able to monitor if the patient actually downloaded it, but they won’t be able to actually tell if the patient is using it. Those who are interested in using this catalog of apps will be trained “on how to use the apps, how to integrate them into their care plans, how to explain them to patients, and how to prescribe them through the mRx system. Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique, explained the reasoning behind the creation of these apps:

We want to test whether health professionals, when provided with the prescribing technology and a vetted app catalog, will actually integrate apps into their delivery of health care. Additionally, we want to test whether patients, when provided with an app as part of their health care treatment, prevention and wellness plan, will download the app as prescribed.

Interesting, to say the least. I’m split on how I feel about this, to be honest. As I did a little more research and read another article about the debate over this topic: Can mobile apps achieve what pills can’t? I found that I agreed with what David Shaywitz,  a physician-scientist and management consultant for a biopharmaceutical company, said.

The development of an effective vaccine did a lot more for the treatment of polio than applying the best design thinking to the construction of an iron lung ever could. I worry a bit that in our fascination with technology and design – which matter a lot for patients in the here and now – we’re neglecting the need figure out some way to get at the difficult biologifcal questions that remain at the root of the disease.

Yes, there is a lot of amazing technology out there. And I think in general, people may like to be prescribed to use an app rather than a pill. At first, at least. Then I think the novelty of it will eventually wear off. However, I wonder if these apps will truly do for patients what the correct prescription of medicine can do. Just because an app can be created to help with heart disease, doesn’t been it should be deemed a treatment. Does everything have to be solved with technology? I agree with Shaywitz – valuable time and money that is being used for projects like this could be used to get to the “root of the disease.” Believe me, I would rather be told that the ailment I had recently had been cured, rather than being given an app. But I guess, if you think about it, since Happtique is a company that creates health apps, and if they weren’t creating the “prescription apps”, it’s not like they would be finding the cure for cancer. If it does prove to be helpful, then great! However, I don’t think they should really replace actually medicine, just be a supplemental treatment.

About the author

Katie Clark

Katie Clark

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

5 Comments

  • Thank you for your interest in Happtique and app prescribing, Katie. At Happtique, we love a good debate and welcome comments about our initiatives. We would like to clarify that Happtique is not an app creator. The apps in our catalog are from the Apple App Store–we’ve organized them with an extensive classification system in an effort to make it easier to find relevant health apps. To further assist in identifying quality apps, Happtique is developing a program that will validate the operability, privacy, security, and content of health apps.

    For our mRx app prescribing trial, we are working with physicians, physical therapists, and trainers to select apps that are currently in the marketplace (none of which we developed). We agree that app prescribing should not replace pill prescribing. Instead, we see mRx as an enhancement to the continuum of care. It allows physicians to connect their patients with relevant, appropriate mHealth apps. This should improve outcomes, since educated and involved patients are far more likely to follow treatment recommendations, use preventative services, comply with medication regimens, and choose healthier lifestyles.

  • Thank you for your interest in Happtique and app prescribing, Katie. At Happtique, we love a good debate and welcome comments about our initiatives. We would like to clarify that Happtique is not an app creator. The apps in our catalog are from the Apple App Store–we’ve organized them with an extensive classification system in an effort to make it easier to find relevant health apps. To further assist in identifying quality apps, Happtique is developing a program that will validate the operability, privacy, security, and content of health apps.

    For our mRx app prescribing trial, we are working with physicians, physical therapists, and trainers to select apps that are currently in the marketplace (none of which we developed). We agree that app prescribing should not replace pill prescribing. Instead, we see mRx as an enhancement to the continuum of care. It allows physicians to connect their patients with relevant, appropriate mHealth apps. This should improve outcomes, since educated and involved patients are far more likely to follow treatment recommendations, use preventative services, comply with medication regimens, and choose healthier lifestyles.

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