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Study Offers Snapshot Of Provider App Preferences

Posted on March 20, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

A recent study backed by HIT industry researchers and an ONC-backed health tech project offers an interesting window into how healthcare organizations see freestanding health apps. The research, by KLAS and the SMART Health IT Project, suggests that providers are developing an increasingly clear of what apps they’d like to see and how they’d use them.

Readers of this blog won’t be surprised to hear that it’s still early in the game for healthcare app use. In fact, the study notes, about half of healthcare organizations don’t formally use apps at the point of care. Also, most existing apps offer basic EMR data access, rather than advanced use cases.

The apps offering EMR data access are typically provided by vendors, and only allow users to view such data (as opposed to documenting care), according to the study report. But providers want to roll out apps which allow inputting of clinical data, as this function would streamline clinicians’ ability to make an initial patient assessment, the report notes.

But there are other important app categories which have gained an audience, including diagnostic apps used to support patient assessment, medical reference apps and patient engagement apps.  Other popular app types include clinical decision support tools, documentation tools and secure messaging apps, according to researchers.

It’s worth noting, though, that there seems to be a gap between what providers are willing to use and what they are willing to buy or develop on their own. For example, the report notes that nearly all respondents would be willing to buy or build a patient engagement app, as well as clinical decision support tools and documentation apps. The patient engagement apps researchers had in would manage chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease, both very important population health challenges.

Hospital leaders, meanwhile, expressed interest in using sophisticated patient portal apps which go beyond simply allowing patients to view their data. “What I would like a patient app to do for us is to keep patients informed all throughout their two- to four-hours ED stay,” one CMO told researchers. “For instance, the app could inform them that their CBC has come back okay and that their physician is waiting on the read. That way patients would stay updated.”

When it came to selecting apps, respondents placed a top priority on usability, followed by the app’s cost, clinical impact, capacity for integration, functionality, app credibility, peer recommendations and security. (This is interesting, given many providers seem to give usability short shrift when evaluating other health IT platforms, most notably EMRs.)

To determine whether an app will work, respondents placed the most faith in conducting a pilot or other trial. Other popular approaches included vendor demos and peer recommendations. Few favored vendor websites or videos as a means of learning about apps, and even fewer placed working with app endorsement organizations or discovering them at conferences.

But providers still have a few persistent worries about third-party apps, including privacy and security, app credibility, the level of ongoing maintenance needed, the extent of integration and data aggregation required to support apps and issues regarding data ownership. Given that worrisome privacy and security concerns are probably justified, it seems likely that they’ll be a significant drag on app adoption going forward.

Are There Too Many Healthcare Apps?

Posted on May 4, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today Anne Zieger wrote a blog post arguing that there are too many healthcare apps. It’s a really interesting take on the plethora of healthcare apps out there and the need for there to be apps that handle more than one specific condition or measurement. Anne argues that patients don’t want to open a whole bunch of different apps to manage their health. Plus, she points out that the highest cost patients are often chronic patients whose health needs to be managed across multiple diseases and multiple data points.

While I find Anne’s analysis interesting, I’m prone to think that we actually need more healthcare apps. I say that because I don’t think the current crop of healthcare apps are really moving the needle. So, we need more healthcare apps that actually attack the right problems. Piggybacking Anne’s comments, I’m not sure the current crop of apps are going to scale to the complexity of a patient, so we likely need new healthcare apps that work with that complexity in mind.

The reality I’ve seen with most healthcare apps is that they lack ambition. Can you name a healthcare app that illustrates the ambition to improve the health of a patient and lowers the cost of healthcare as we know it? Those are big claims to make and so you don’t see anyone claiming it. Claims aside, are there any companies that are really doing it?

My experience shows that there are a few apps that in a very limited scope are able to improve the health of the patient. Although, very very few of them have done the studies necessary to be able to claim that. They have plenty of anecdotal stories about how their app improved someone’s life. However, they don’t yet have the data to prove what they believe their app is able to accomplish.

It’s going to take a lot more ambition from healthcare app developers to really attach the problems that vex healthcare. Keeping someone healthy is an extremely complex issue and won’t likely be solved by a 99 cent app.

If that’s too big of a vision for you as an entrepreneur, how about you start with a simpler concept. Show me an app that changes people’s behavior. Let’s start with something that simple and scale from there. Most health apps aren’t even brave enough to take on that challenge. I’m not blaming them. It’s hard, but that’s what will make it so valuable.

Could a Smartphone Give You an Eye Exam?

Posted on September 28, 2011 I Written By

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: It never ceases to amaze me the things that can be done with a smartphone.  The MIT Media Lab has developed a device that can attach to a smartphone and essentially provide an eye exam.  Here is the description they gave with the video below:

Our small, portable solution allows for anyone, anywhere to get an eye exam, and access a care provider through the mobile network. The setup consists of three parts: a smart phone, a hardware app and a software app.

Snap the NETRA adapter onto a smart phone loaded with NETRA software, follow the simple instructions, and quickly receive your prescription for glasses right on the phone. NETRA fits snugly in a pocket and requires minimal training to operate.

Starting with refractive errors and cataracts, NETRA and CATRA are our first of a growing line of solutions geared towards eye health. Stay tuned to our twitter feed for continual developments over the coming months.



They claim that it only requires minimal training, and judging by the video it looks pretty simple.  Obviously this won’t provide a comprehensive eye exam, but for people who can’t afford to go long distances to a doctor this could easily help them to see better.

As someone who has never really had vision problems, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to deal with not seeing well.  On the other hand I have seen my wife deal with poor vision and all of the difficulties it provides when she is not wearing her glasses.  Now people who previously had little to no chance of getting a prescription will no longer have to suffer through those difficulties.

It is also great to see that the caliber of people at MIT are working on healthcare devices and apps.  As more and more high quality developers get into the industry, the quality of new applications should only improve, and improve our lives.

More information is available on their website.

New Smartphone Device May Bring Brain Scanning Home

Posted on September 26, 2011 I Written By

An amazing new gadget has been developed by researchers from the Technical University of Denmark.  They have developed a portable EEG device that can monitor brain activity using a Nokia N900 smartphone.  According to an article from this new device would allow people to monitor their brain activity from the comfort of their homes without having to go in for an expensive procedure.

The system also uses a commercially available Emotive EPOC wireless EEG headset and a specially designed app.  Using these tools together, multiple users can monitor their brain waves while working together on a task.  That should provide interesting insights into how our brains work individually.

It can also be hooked up with more powerful computers to provided in depth analysis of the information.  While it will likely not replace traditional scanners, not will it become something that everyday people will use, it could become extremely useful.  It could allow people to save time and money by being tested at home rather than making expensive doctors visits.

This also seems to be the general trend of mobile medical devices.  Creating the ability to do things at home that previously required a visit to the doctor.  It will be interesting to see how many of these devices actually achieve widespread adoption.

Fitbit Privacy or Lack Thereof – Exposing Sexual Activity of Its Users

Posted on September 13, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Well, privacy rears its ugly head in healthcare again. I don’t want to treat a person’s privacy lightly, but I must admit that I kind of had to laugh at the breach I’m about to tell you about. I think you’ll see why.

I first read about this privacy breach on this Techcrunch article (They originally found it on nextWeb). Here’s a quote from the Techcrunch article:

Yikes. Users of fitness and calorie tracker Fitbit may need to be more careful when creating a profile on the site. The sexual activity of many of the users of the company’s tracker and online platform can be found in Google Search results, meaning that these users’ profiles are public and searchable.

I’ve been a big fan of Fitbit and other devices like that which are trying to track a person’s health and fitness. I think there’s a real market for these devices, but this is a pretty ugly misstep for Fitbit. Although, a search for sexual activity and FitBit isn’t returning results any more. Here’s the Fitbit blog post which details the steps they’ve taken to secure their users profiles. Seems like a reasonable and a smart response to the privacy issue.

Before I go any farther, we should be clear that this isn’t a HIPAA violation. The patient put their information online and agreed to have that information out there. We could argue how much they really agreed to have their profile public, but I’m quite sure that Fitbit would be fine in a HIPAA lawsuit. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not taking the hit for poor decisions.

What can future healthcare app and device companies learn from the Privacy issues at Fitbit?

1. Default healthcare profiles to private. Allow the user to opt in to make it public. Some might want it public, but no company should assume it should be public. This isn’t Facebook.

2. Consider more granular privacy controls. I may want part of my profile public, but part private (ie. sexual activity in a fitness application).

3. Be aware of what you allow search engines to index. There’s a whole category of hackers called Google Hackers. They use Google to find sensitive information like the story above. It’s amazing the power of Google hacking.

Some suggestions to e-patients that put their health data online:

1. Be careful about what information you’re putting online.

2. Check out where the information you put online will be available. Is it private? Is it public? Is it partially public? Can search engines see it?

There’s little doubt that more and more healthcare information is going to be put online by patients. We’re going to see more and more privacy issues like the one mentioned above. This incident will do little to deter this trend. However, hopefully it can serve as a learning experience for Fitbit and other healthcare companies that are entering this new world of online health information.