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Ask the Experts: Are Apps Invading Healthcare?

Adrian Gropper, MD

gropperAdrian Gropper is CTO of Patient Privacy Rights. He founded a number of software-intensive medical device companies. Currently, he consults on Federal pilots, participates in health data policy and standards including OpenID/HEART to develop profiles for the JASON Public API, and serves on the Board of NSTIC / IDESG. Dr. Gropper holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MD from Harvard Medical School.

Q: What is the state of apps in healthcare today? Are patients and doctors using them?

Health apps are undergoing a major transition from isolated efforts to parts of an ecosystem. We have two major examples already in SMART and Apple HealthKit / ResearchKit each quite significant.

SMART introduces a standard Application Programming Interface (API) and a standard authorization mechanism (OAuth) to access of health records. The importance of this cannot be overstated because these technologies have already proved their power and scalability on the Web.

HealthKit and ResearchKit are a huge step in the direction of privacy and patient control over information. This is approach is patient-centered, with no access to the information by Apple itself, and, in the case of ResearchKit, promotes trust through Open Source software and open source apps.

Q: What are the biggest benefits of using apps in healthcare?

Apps can put control of information directly in the hands of patients, patient communities and their physicians much as other aspects of the Internet promote decentralized participation and networking.Appscan be intensely personal and, as an intimate wearable or linked to an intimate wearable, become an agent of the individual rather than some institution or business interest. Doctors will now have the opportunity to focus their technology interaction on the patient’sapps vs. their employer’s institutional systems. This balance should shift in favor of the patient over time to the benefit of both physicians and patients.

Q: What are the biggest concerns you have about apps being more widely used in healthcare?

Secrecy is my biggest fear. Most apps are still secret and unlike traditional medicine are not open for peer review and improvement. As such, they could become the modern version of Snake Oil. Open source appsare the equivalent of ingredients on the label and both patients and physicians would be wise to insist on them. Apple and the SMART project have made strong commitments to open source. Let’s hope others follow suit. Who wants to move to branded, secret medicine?

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These panelists will also be joined by Charles Safran, MD, Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The panel will be moderated by Glenn Tucker, MD, the current chair of the MMS Committee on Information Technology. 

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Jennifer M. Joe, MD

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

    My passion is healthcare optimization, whether that is with innovation, making scientific discoveries, or improving delivery. I love bringing people and ideas together and making projects work. With this, medicine exists to improve lives, and I will strive to always help patients and those around me.

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