Your doctor may soon prescribe you a smartphone app in addition to drugs and physical therapy.
Hospitals are developing new mobile apps to help patients manage serious medical conditions and feed information back to their doctors between visits, often in real time.
The new apps aim to help with highly specific issues such as recovering from surgery and managing cancer-related pain. Because they are prescribed by physicians and used under medical supervision, researchers say, they stand a better chance of being integrated into patients’ daily routines, compared with health apps that consumers download and use without their doctors’ involvement.
Researchers are conducting clinical trials to test apps that help patients adhere to HIV medications, manage the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and asthma, and prevent repeat heart problems after a cardiovascular rehabilitation program. In addition to sending messages, reminders and instructions, the apps can alert providers to developing problems before they become a crisis. Researchers say their use could help reduce costly emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
“We want apps to be educational and inspirational, help people adhere to their therapy and enable them to share important information with their doctor,” says Joseph Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, at Partners HealthCare in Boston and author of “The Internet of Healthy Things.” Partners, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital, is testing apps to help patients with atrial fibrillation manage blood-thinner medication, oral chemotherapy regimens and moderate to severe cancer pain.