England's National Health Service just announced it will encourage general practitioners to "prescribe" apps rather than actual doctors' visits whenever possible. The core idea is to get British patients to use mobile healthcare devices to monitor and track their ongoing health status, and identify (and solve) problems before they require a visit. It's couched as a quality of care move, but also as a money-saving maneuver for the state-funded healthcare system.
"So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch," U.K. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told Marie Claire magazine. "I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.
For example, physicians may ask diabetic or other chronic disease sufferers to use remote monitoring sensors to track their blood glucose or other vital signs and submit them to a central computer system for analysis, according to the article. The physician will then send recommendations for the patient's next move--adjust diet or medication, or go straight to their office for a check-up.
It's a system that might work in the U.K., given its centralized setup, but might not translate to the U.S., notes iMedicalApps' Iltifat Husain.
"For example, a revered app in the U.K. is Patients Know Best. It enables patients to get their electronic health records form their clinicians and also easily distribute their information to other clinicians," Husain writes. "But in order to make this happen, the app taps in the NHS--the publicly funded healthcare system in the U.K. Obviously, extrapolating this type of functionality in the U.S. would be painful as our system of patient records is extremely fragmented."