Healthcare News & Insights

Can phone apps really help patients with compliance?


Did you know that some doctors are prescribing smart phone apps, along with medical devices, to increase patients’ compliance with the management of their chronic diseases?

While people have been using phone apps for years to keep track of their fitness regimen and diets, or remind them when to take their prescriptions, physicians are now taking phone apps to a whole new level. They’ve even given it a name — mHealth, which stands for mobile health.

Chronic disease management

Some of the chronic diseases physicians are prescribing the use of phone apps for, along with other devices, are heart disease, diabetes and asthma. Some examples of these medical devices include:

What’s really shocking isn’t the fact that some of these apps will even suggest behavioral changes, but rather that some carriers are considering paying for them. While most of the apps are free, the medical devices aren’t.

“I think insurance companies will see the value in having these devices,” Alert Lai, a biomedical informatices expert at Ohio State University, told the Columbus Dispatch. “It will be a matter of demonstrating improved care or decreased cost of care from having them.”

Revolutionize health care

“I think this app revolution has one of the largest potentials to revolutionize health care and can be a large paradigm shift in how we provide care,” added Lai.

According to the article, the apps collect the data which is then analyzed, displayed and shared with patients’ physicians.

The idea for the apps isn’t just that it’ll help physicians stay informed of their patients’ compliance with their plan of care, but that it’ll empower patients to take charge of their health and their lives. Having patients play an active role in their health is what patient centered care is all about.

By having a more continuous and open plan of care, patients stay healthier and avoid visits to the emergency room and hospitalization, which lowers overall healthcare costs.

Potential risk

One potential risk to patients, however, is if the medical devices and apps don’t work as planned. That’s why FDA oversight is vital.

The FDA issued draft guidelines on medical apps in July 2011, and has included them on the “A-list” of final guidance topics they’ll publish later this year.

To date, the FDA has cleared more than 75 medical apps, since the guidelines were drafted.


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