Doctors are beginning to prescribe smart-phone applications and medical devices they work with to help patients manage chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
Insurance might even pay for it, too.
“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,” said Albert Lai, a biomedical informatics expert at Ohio State University.
“We don’t need a specialized device if we can find a way to integrate this care into something people already own.”
Simple apps that help people with their fitness or remind them to take their pill prescriptions already are widely popular. But new device applications are taking mobile health — or mHealth as practitioners are calling it — to a new level.
Take the IBGStar Blood Glucose System. It uses a glucose meter that plugs into smart phones.Or the iHealth Blood Pressure Monitor, with a cuff that connects to the phone, and SmartHeart, which works with a heart monitor harness that wirelessly transmits information to the phone.
The data gathered by these apps is analyzed, displayed and can be shared with physicians. And most of the apps even will suggest behavioral changes to improve test results.
“The apps will not just help the doctors know what their patient is doing on a daily basis, but they should empower the patient to do something to improve their lives,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, the executive director for Ohio State’s Center for Personalized Health Care. “It is this integration that is so important and can really make these apps have an impact.”Dr. Jennifer Dyer, a pediatric endocrinologist in Columbus, developed an app in partnership with Ohio startup Duet Health.EndoGoal, which was released in September, is for patients with Type 1 diabetes. The app allows patients to earn points for completing their glucose readings and actively managing their condition.
“My patients really want to see these kinds of things for their health,” Dyer said. “We are not using apps as prescriptions for patients yet, but at some point I think it absolutely will happen.”& amp; amp; lt; /p>
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must approve her app before it can work with a glucometer.
Dyer said she is starting a clinical trial that she hopes will show that her app is successful. If that happens, she will raise money to pay for the FDA process.
Although some people are excited about this new technology and how it puts some aspects of health care into patient’s hands, there are some caveats.Bakul Patel, a policy advisor in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said mobile health devices carry “a potential risk to patients if they do not work as intended, which makes FDA oversight important.”He said the FDA is working with app developers to find the best way to ensure patient safety of the apps while not impeding innovation.The FDA released draft guidelines concerning medical apps in July 2011 and has included them on the “A-list” of final guidance topics that it plans to issue this year.So far, the government agency has cleared more than 75 medical apps — many for doctors’ use only — since publishing its draft rules, Patel said. A majority of patient apps have popped up in recent months.Many of the apps are free, but the devices can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. Insurance providers are starting to cover some of those costs.“I think insurance companies will see the value in having these devices,” Lai said. “It will be a matter of demonstrating improved care or decreased cost of care from having them.”
The potential for the apps to decrease the cost of care is huge, experts say. According to the American Diabetes Association, the cost of treating diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion.While these apps are not meant to replace physicians, they have the potential to decrease emergency visits and hospitalizations.“This app revolution is going to enable more continuous health care,” Lai said. “ So we are keeping people healthy instead of treating them when they’re sick.”
Reblogged from the The Columbus Dispatch, firstname.lastname@example.org