IMS Health, a major healthcare research and technology firm, is offering healthcare providers and payers an "mHealth prescribing solution" that can help create "formularies" for physicians who prescribe mobile-health apps to their patients.
While few doctors are currently doing this, IMS Health is entering a crowded field, which already includes Happtique, HealthTap, Cigna, and Partners Healthcare's Center for Connected Health. But only IMS Health claims to provide a comprehensive ranking of m-health apps, coupled with a full-blown m-health prescribing system.
IMS said in its news release that its cloud-based app evaluation platform ranks all of the more than 40,000 healthcare apps in the Apple iTunes store. But in a recent report, IMS found that only 16,275 of those apps are consumer-oriented health products rather than other kinds of consumer applications or professional apps.
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Matthew Tindall, director of consumer solutions for IMS Health, told InformationWeek Healthcare that the AppScore feature of IMS Health's solution ranks "all of the apps in the ecosystem and categorizes them by their use in the stages of the patient journey." The company's scoring system includes 25 criteria developed by IMS and its physician advisors, who include about two dozen experts, mostly from academic institutions.
Asked why providers and health plans should trust IMS's curation more than that of its competitors, Tindall replied that IMS is 60 years old, has had lots of research experience, and has developed a sophisticated solution. "We can create app formularies based on the patient population and practice preferences. We've worked with physicians around the country in larger institutions to glean information on what would be interesting to them in the app space."
IMS will continue to improve its ranking methodology, he added. "We're actively refining and revising the algorithms and the scoring and the process behind the IMS app score. It's an early product, but it's one we think will offer a lot of value to physicians and hospitals in terms of formulary creation."
Beyond helping physicians choose the right app for the right patient, IMS also provides AppScripts, a framework for app prescribing that allows doctors to send a secure email or text message to a patient's mobile device. The message, which contains the prescription, refers the patient to the app store and asks the patient whether he or she plans to download the app.
This is the first step toward tracking outcomes, which many physicians say is related to patient engagement. "We're tracking the potential for engagement," Tindall said. "As we get more sophisticated with the platform, we'll be able to provide better information within AppScript."
IMS is also launching a mobile app developer platform known as AppNucleus, and it will provide a software developer kit for it in the first quarter, according to Tindall. According to the news release, AppNucleus offers app developers a free patient-physician messaging plug-in as well as a "highly economical way to build security into their apps and protect patient information."
In addition, IMS Health will give both providers and developers insights gleaned from its "comprehensive data on diseases, treatments, costs, and outcomes." Tindall explained that these insights can help developers decide how to apply their apps more effectively and what types of functionality they could add to improve them. He added that IMS will work with the software firms to create more sophisticated apps that offer patients a more engaging experience and more information than most current m-health apps provide.
"We feel we're building the infrastructure that can enable m-health technology to become an integral part of healthcare management and delivery," Tindall said. "And we think that we have a unique opportunity here, because we're combining the most real-world healthcare data available today with the industry's most secure hosting and prescribing platform. The goal is to make mobile apps safer and more effective and easier to prescribe."
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