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Take this mHealth app, 3 times a day

My blog this week is prompted by the most interesting news item of the week, although I don’t think it was widely publicised – the first mHealth app that is prescription-only.  The app in question is the Bluestar app for type 2 diabetics from Welldoc.  You will only be able to use the app following a prescription from your doctor and with an activation code from your pharmacist (also note that this is US-only currently).   

What’s the big deal?

Why is this so significant? Simply because it reinforces a trend I predicted earlier this year, that mHealth would start to be led by professionalsmhealthClinician acceptance is a huge barrier to mHealth adoption, so anything that gives them control will go down well – and at the same time gives patients much more confidence that this app is clinically validated and that a professional will bother to read their data at some point.  

However the more observant amongst you may wish to remind me that in an earlier blog I said ‘mHealth is not about apps’. So what’s changed here? Well as I said in that blog, mHealth needs to be a service, not just an app – and that’s what Bluestar is. It provides a comprehensive range of support to diabetic patients and is fully integrated into clinical pathways – that is mHealth.  The fact that it is prescription-only shows the power such a service can have.

What’s next?

So now we have our first prescription-only app – what else is happening to put some quality conformance into the app world?  Happtique were the first to come up with the idea of a curated health app store, but unfortunately seem to have stalled in their effort, although others seem to be progressing well:

  • Myhealthapps is a curated selection of hundreds of health apps which have been positively reviewed by patients and patient groups (but importantly not clinicians)
  • Perhaps most significantly IMS Health launched its AppScript™ service earlier this year, which allows health providers to create their own curated app store, and provide traceability as to which apps have been prescribed to which patients, just like any other prescription. 

Onwards and upwards then?

Whether it’s merely conditioning or truly justified, patients trust doctors, and the more doctors and other healthcare professionals are actively involved in the dispensing of mHealth, the faster it will grow.  On the other hand, if doctors resist the tide, as we saw recently in South Korea where doctors voted to strike over the introduction of telehealth, then we are in for a long, painful journey.  I hope you remain as positive as I do on this point.  

As usual, I’d love to hear your comments or feel free to contact me.

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