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A Physician's Perspective: Meaningful Use of Health Technology

Jun 27 2012   11:16PM GMT

Are physicians ready to “prescribe” mobile apps?

Posted by: DrJosephKim

These days, the treatment of chronic diseases often includes a variety of medications, lifestyle changes, and patient education. The combination of these elements encompasses the world of chronic disease management. Soon, we’ll be adding mobile apps, telemonitoring, and virtual follow-ups with health care providers. These will become routine elements of any standard disease management process. Telemonitoring has been used for many years to help patients with certain conditions such as heart failure, irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), diabetes, and some lung conditions. Telemonitoring equipment can be quite expensive and standard health insurance plans are not always covering the cost of the equipment or the services that are provided by licensed health care providers to work with patients who are using telemonitoring solutions.

Enter mobile apps that run on Internet-connected mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, Androids, and many other devices. Since these devices are already connected, they can easily transmit vital data to health care providers who can review the patient information and respond with a digital message directly to the patient. Before long, the “prescription” of a mobile app will be a routine part of providing care to a patient who is managing a chronic condition. We’ll see physicians filling out prescriptions for mobile apps (maybe this is where the paper prescription pad will come back). I don’t think standard e-prescribing systems will support the prescription of mobile apps, but then again, maybe you can just use an open field and print it out for the patient.  I imagine that it won’t be long before physicians are “bumping” their smartphones or using NFC to transmit the mobile app prescription to the patient.

These are exciting times where we are seeing the value of mobile apps that can truly enhance patient care, improve disease management, and facilitate communication between the patient and the health care provider. I know that some physicians still remain very reluctant to prescribe a mobile app to a patient because they fear potential litigation if a patient misuses an app, is misguided an app, or gets injured in some other way from a mobile app. Once we see a critical mass of physicians prescribing mobile apps, those apprehensions will probably dissolve. Until then, we’ll need to rely on the early adopters – the trendsetters – who are progressive about improving health care delivery through the novel use of ubiquitous technology. Before long, the act of prescribing a mobile app will no longer be novel. Can you imagine that?

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