Everybody loves lists. The two most popular stories in the 15-month history of FierceMobileHealthcare haven't actually been stories, but our slideshows of 15 free healthcare apps for the iPhone and 15 free healthcare apps for the BlackBerry.
It works for others, too. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times published a guide to consumer health apps for smartphones--and opened the story with a spin on an increasingly trite line, "Is there an app for that?" The author listed some of her own favorite apps, including the American Heart Association's Pocket First Aid and CPR app and MedWatcher, which will provide FDA alerts and other news on pharmaceuticals when it becomes available this fall.
Though most of the apps on the market are for iPhone, Claudia Tessier, president of the Boston-based mHealth Initiative says there are plenty of alternatives for other operating systems. "Chances are good that if you find an app you like, but it works on a different platform--say, an iPhone and you sport a BlackBerry--there's a comparable, if not identical app for your phone," Tessier tells the Times.
So far, the market is wide open and largely unregulated, so buyer beware, advises Dr. Joseph Kim, founder of the medicalsmartphones.com blog. (Tuesday's post lists some of his physician wife's favorite Android apps, incidentally.) "Consumers are largely on their own; there is no organization that is policing, monitoring, or rating things like medical accuracy and consumer friendliness," Kim warns. "Type 'diabetes' into an app-store search engine, you can find a huge list of apps, but you have no way of knowing which ones are good and which you should avoid, and as a result, consumers may download apps that contain erroneous information," he says.
Meanwhile, Technology for Doctors, a spin-off from Canadian Healthcare Technology, features the "top 10 free iPhone medical apps" in its July issue, as determined by physician reviews at iMedicalApps.com. Not surprisingly, Medscape and Epocrates top the list, but some of the other top picks aren't so obvious.
The same publication features iMedicalApps, calling it "the go-to site for smartphone reviews." The year-old site now gets 4,000 visitors a day, according to co-founder Dr. Felasfa Wodaj, an orthopedic oncologist in Washington, D.C. "The level of interest isn't just about which apps to get, but about the whole burgeoning field of smartphones used for medical purposes," Wodaj tells Technology for Doctors. All of us see this area is exploding, and physicians want to know more about it but there aren't many places to read about it."
(What are we here at FierceMobileHealthcare, chopped liver? To his credit, we don't have physicians on our team reviewing apps for their peers.)
One thing we do learn from the story is why BlackBerry has fallen so far behind Android for second place in terms of the number of apps available. "The BlackBerry is a desert for apps, as they're hard to develop and install. Until they change their operating system so apps are easier to install, there won't be much of an app community around it," Wodaj says.
Wodaj is more excited about the potential of the iPad, though. "The iPad could be the portal to the entire medical record, not just a quick view of this or that," he says.