The Mobile Medical Apps Innovation Puzzle
A mobile application (or mobile app) is a software application designed to run on smartphones,
computers and other mobile
devices. They are usually available through application distribution
platforms, which are typically operated by the owner of the mobile operating system, such as the Apple
Windows Phone Store and BlackBerry App World. Some apps are free,
while others must be bought. Usually, they are downloaded from the platform to a
target device, such as an iPhone, BlackBerry, Android phone or Windows Phone,
but sometimes they can be downloaded to laptops or desktops.
For apps with a price, generally a percentage, 20-30%, goes to the distribution
provider (such as iTunes),
and the rest goes to the producer of the app.
March 4 Wall Street Journal contains
this astonishing information; apps are a $25 billion industry, Apple boasts of
800,000 apps in its apps store (compared to 700,000 on Google Play, 125, 000 on
windows, and 70,000 on Amazon), and if you’re paying for an app (most are free)
prices range from $2.84 to $4.44. I also
learned the big apps right now are Facebook, Twitter, and Linkidi, all to which I belong. The champion of physician bloggers, Kevin Pho at KevinMd.com portrays himself as
the “social media’s leading physician voice."
Enough prologue. Here is Kaiser
Health News story on medial apps.
Got A Health Care Puzzle? There Should Be
Kansas City, Mo., is looking to boost its health-tech
A mashup of innovation and old-school hacking (in its benign sense), the goal of the competition was to
improve the nation’s health system and help people navigate the complexities of
the Affordable Care Act.
Oh, there was a catch. They had to pull off these health
care feats with an app. The top prize: $15,000.
Ten finalists made their case
before a panel of five judges last week. The apps were varied. Some focused on
improving personal health; others served as navigators of the federal health
law; and a few made health care costs easier to find.
Liam Ryan, a 23-year-old from Dublin, Ireland, earned a
runner-up prize with a program he describes as “Foursquare for health.” A user
comes up with a team, perhaps of friends and family, and then competes against
them on healthful behaviors. Messages pop up on the team members’ phones when
someone has earned points.
“The idea is my friend went for a walk at home, got some
points without me. All of a sudden I want to beat him back,” Ryan told judges,
adding that he sees employers, with their growing concerns over health care
costs, taking interest in a program like his.
There were a variety of apps that aimed to help navigate
the Byzantine world of health care prices. What if you knew the price of that
cavity before getting it filled?
That’s where finalist Touré
McCluskey, from Seattle, comes in. “Today online, you can book and
plan your dream vacation, you can research your home, you can buy a car. You
can even get a Ph.D. But you can’t find out the price of your next dental
exam,” McCluskey said.
McCluskey’s app locates medical services that often
aren’t covered by someone’s insurance, such as dental or eye exams. The service
allows users to compare options in an area based on price and a doctor’s
credentials. In Chicago, one city where the app is live, McCluskey found prices
ranging from $60 to $460 for an optometrist visit.
Scott Speranza was second runner-up with an app that
audits medical bills. People scan bills into their phones, then the app
searches for errors and savings.
The grand prize went to eLuminate Health. The company’s
program focuses on outpatient surgeries and tests, such as mammograms or MRIs,
where prices can vary by thousands of dollars.
Someone with traditional insurance coverage may not know
— or care — whether a procedure costs $500 or $5,000. But the rise of
high-deductible health plans means people may pay anywhere from $2,500 to
$5,000, or more, before insurance starts footing the bill. “You’re thrust out
into this system where you have no idea — you can’t do any type of shopping,”
said eLuminate’s Peter Yates.
One day, Yates would like to see providers set and
publicize their prices. “Just like a mechanic sets the price on an oil change,”
he says. People who need a mammogram could then compare their options based on
price and quality, much as they now shop for plane tickets on a site like
Yates says the idea, which will be piloted in Kansas City
this summer, has sparked the interest of medical groups that typically have
less pricing leverage than large hospital systems. And while taking part may
not appear to be in the interests of large providers that do well now, Yates
thinks that could change.
“We really want to flip that around to more of a normal
commercial model of ‘this is the thing I’m selling, here’s how much it costs,’
” Yates said. “We want to make health care like almost any other consumer good
that people buy today.”
The competition was co-sponsored by Think Big
Partners, a business incubator, and tax giant H&R Block, both
based in Kansas City.
Longtime Kansas City business leader Ned Holland, now an
assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was
one of the featured guests. “This was all impressive work,” he said.
This story is
part of a collaboration that includes NPR, KCUR
and Kaiser Health News.
This story deserves this tongue-in-cheek verse;
I’m puzzled by
the world of medical apps.
seem to fill payment gaps,
to help those with
health savings payment caps,
to aid those
who let their health insurance lapse.
But for me,
medical apps are akin to shooting craps.
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