Apple now sifts through health apps for docs

Apple has added an ingenious new segment to its app store--iTunes for Healthcare Professionals--with the idea of sifting through the thousands of healthcare apps, and corralling those that will be of most use to physicians and other providers, according to medical market manager Afshad Mistri.

The "small and focused collection of apps helps customers discover and choose the best healthcare apps for iPhone & iPad," Mistri says.

It's a welcome notion, William Jackson, medical director for the Telemedicine Institute at Inova Health System in Fairfax, Va., tells FierceMobileHealthcare. But the key issue will be Apple's definition of "customer." Apple staff may have to work harder than they're expecting to really vet these products if they're hoping to get tech-savvy physicians' buy-in that their new app substore has the best tools for their work lives.

"The crucial part will be in discriminating between which ones are "plug-and-play" value-adds to clinician workflow and which ones are merely health/wellness-based. The latter are still valuable, but would not necessarily be so for healthcare professionals," Jackson says.

Apple already has divided its provider-focused healthcare apps into six categories: Reference, education, EMR & patient monitoring, imaging, point of care (for "use at the patient's bedside," company officials say), and personal care.

Some of these categories already appear a bit off the mark, given that many imaging, EMR and education apps are the ones physicians will most want to use at the "point-of-care," or patient bedside. Apple may have to more carefully tailor its categorizations to match clinician work patterns.

A blogger at The Krafty Librarian praised the move to a healthcare section, but had questions about who would be sorting the good apps from the bad.

"That medical/health section had a lot of junk apps that people had to sift through to find good stuff, it is nice to see this professional section come about," the authors writes. "My only question is how/who is adding and vetting the apps? I hope it isn't a free for all where app developers can just add their app if they feel like [meaning we could return to problem of chaff out numbering the wheat]."

To learn more:
- see the Apple announcement
- get more detail from the UK's Department of Health blog
- check out the The Krafty Librarian commentary

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