This year, technology giant Apple highlighted 22 applications for patients that it thought were most useful. Some apply more to niche groups of consumers, while others apply to anyone who has ever been curious about their well-being or taken a prescription medication. Pharmacy patients are diverse and present with a wide range of diagnoses. Of the 22 apps on the list, here are the 6 that are most relevant to pharmacists:
1. Iodine: This app attempts to crowdsource drug information in an accessible fashion and back up comments from consumers with information from the FDA and package inserts. The app’s design makes digesting the wealth of information associated with prescription medications much easier for an average patient.
To assess patient experience with prescriptions, a consumer survey consists of 3 main questions: Is it worth it?; how much of a hassle is it?; and how well does it work? Pharmacists may not be using this to replace their typical clinical decision support systems anytime soon, but it is insightful to see what information is available to patients before they set foot into the pharmacy.
The compare tool is comprehensive and covers information from adverse effects, which can be broken down between gender and age, to dosage forms, and tips from a pharmacist. There is a pricing tool on individual medication review pages, but price variations employed by pharmacy benefit managers may lead to frustration when patients expect 1 price but see another at the pharmacy. From the pharmacist’s perspective, Iodine still needs to add drug interactions to its patient-friendly interface (versus expecting a full review of the package insert) and reviews by patients on multiple medications.
2. MyChart by Epic: This app is a huge help to patients to take an active stance in managing their care and keep an open line of communication with their providers. Several other apps are available from Epic for health care providers, but MyChart is specifically for patients to link to their already existing MyChart account.
As with any app linked to patient visits at a single health care system, there is a concern that information could be lost with provider visits outside the system. MyChart’s homepage seems customizable between separate institutions as expected from an enterprise solution, and some technology hopefully can be or already is being employed to link similar user names between institutions to ease patient confusion.
Linking to the Apple Health app has to be a huge benefit for patient reach, but that still may hinder patients not prone to signing up for these kinds of services. A great feature to address privacy concerns, public computers require answers to 2 security questions while private computers do not. Individuals can even stay up to date with family members’ health data through the MyChart app. Pharmacists may consider using this as a tool during medication reconciliation to keep patients assured of their proper medication schedule.
3. CareZone: This app addresses the same topic as MyChart. The goal is to make patient lives easier with medication and health management. As this app is not linked to an electronic health record service, more manual entry and labor is involved in terms of tracking health information.
Allowing photo and file upload to the app attempts to increase ease of use, but photo quality and file type allows for inconsistency that can take away from the user experience. Partnership is a highlighted section of the website, and opportunities for integration with various partners are surely available to promote a more customized experience.
The features, including notes, to-dos, and contacts, allow the user to have a section of their phone siloed for the sole purpose of monitoring health. Yes, these are features already available on most smartphones, but keeping a separate app is sensible in that it won’t get lost in other forms of documentation.
Regardless, health deserves specialized attention for the sole purpose of emergency prevention. Especially for users managing their children or their parents, or even both, this seems to be a great way to keep up with their health and share with other caretakers.
As with most emerging services, this is not the only app of its kind, but to receive an endorsement from Apple is a great way to improve name recognition and market share. Specific to pharmacy, pictures of prescription bottles allow the app to pick up, medication dosing, pharmacy information, and provider data.
4. Medisafe Pill Reminder & Medication Tracker: Everyone is working toward a medication adherence solution, due to the scale of the problem along with the assumed simplicity of the fix. As with any capable tech product, Medisafe connects with all devices you can think of and allows for provider access to important data points. The company’s main technology includes an app, provider portal, and wireless pill bottle. Along with the bottle, patients using medications in a sorter can connect the pill “door” so that adherence can be tracked not only with lids of prescription bottles.
The enterprise solution allows companies to customize their user experience by setting up specific alerts for different patient populations while also allowing more individual notification options. Another benefit for partners is the adherence insight they can glean when looking at all their patients as a group or breaking down different demographics to uncover medication trends. Of course, this will present a challenge to patients who employ multiple health care teams, but providers should encourage patients to take accountability and use a platform such as this. To Medisafe’s credit, it also has published its own original research on adherence.
5. Mango Health: Applying a specialized background in mobile-game design, Mango Health is dedicated to improving overall health outcomes, beginning with adherence and expanding to general wellness, by creating an app that patients compulsively open and view as a competition. Beyond that, the technology and solution is not described in much more detail. Mango Health’s blog outlines some general wellness topics but avoids discussing mobile health industry trends or convincing attempts for patients to download the app.
The press about Mango Health further details its gamification strategy, mentioning points for medication adherence that translate to real-world uses and rewards. This year, news of a partnership with Express Scripts and Mango Health hit, which has massive implications on pharmacy populations.
Mango Health’s enterprise business venture has seemingly become more of the strategy since previous funding rounds and represents a pivot from an early direct-to-consumer model. Those who find digital health enticing, might be interested in checking out the Rock Health Venture Fund, which claims to be the first fund dedicated to digital health. Both Mango Health and Iodine are in Rock Health’s portfolio.
6. Cures by Healtho: With 2 reviews in the app store and the most recent Facebook and Twitter updates made in 2013, there is much less publicity behind this app. Nonetheless, the highlight here is the journaling available to patients and how it appears as a feed, making a review of the journal very easy for pharmacists if a patient comes in and complains about symptoms. Instead of relying on a patient explanation at the point of care when they are most likely in distress, this allows the pharmacist to quickly and comprehensively review the journal.
Many types of treatments are highlighted for various conditions, with alternative and lifestyle changes complementing the typical prescription and OTC options. The social feature includes comments from users and begins with the most upvoted comments. The most recent app update was made a year ago, claiming compatibility with iOS 9 and the iPhone 6s/6s plus.
This may signal a behind-the-scenes overhaul that is being worked through. Regardless, this could be a first step for patients in discovering efficacious treatments aside from prescriptions for their diagnoses.