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Mobile medical apps gaining ground in health care industry

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 29 2012 5:01 p.m. MDT

People who claim they cannot live without their phones or mobile technology may soon have a more legitimate claim. The health care industry is looking to medical-based apps, prescribed by professionals, as one of the next technological advancements in effective medical treatment.

"Mobile medical apps are popping up all over," according to a post on Information Week Health Care. "Doctors are incorporating them into their practices to be more effective and efficient. Patients are using them to monitor specific aspects of their health, fill in gaps in their medical care and take more responsibility for their well-being. Both doctors and patients are finding that mobile apps can provide a fast and efficient way to stay in touch and exchange information."

These apps have not yet been fully implemented across the health care industry, as there are still potential roadblocks to contend with. One app developed by the company WellDoc helps a patient manage diabetes by recommending certain foods based on blood-sugar reading.

"The idea of medically prescribed apps excites some people in the health care industry, who see them as a starting point for even more sophisticated applications that might otherwise never be built," reported the New York Times. "But first, a range of issues — around vetting, paying for and monitoring the proper use of such apps — needs to be worked out."

Happtique, a mobile application store developed by health care professionals, recently introduced a pilot program to assist physicians in electronically prescribing medical apps to their patients.

"Given the tens of thousands of medical, health and fitness apps on the market today, patients need guidance from health care professionals as they select and use these apps to manage their health," said Ben Chodor, Happtique’s CEO, in a Happtique Post. "We also firmly believe that app prescribing will prove an effective tool for facilitating positive patient behavior change, which will foster self-management and monitoring and ultimately result in improved health outcomes and lowered health care costs."

To date, less then 10 apps have gained clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, according to the New York Times, and there are many apps marketed as medical tools that make untested claims.

"It is still not completely clear how far regulation over medical apps will extend," reported the New York Times. "The FDA plans to release guidelines later this year outlining its approach to apps, while other agencies will be in charge of privacy and data security."

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