Mobile Health Device Stores

My last post was about curated mobile health app stores and the value of app stores generally for mobile health. The major players I know of that are trying to deliver curated mobile health app stores are Happtique and HealthTap. You could also lump in EHR vendors like Greenway, Allscripts, and athenahealth since apps that connect to those platforms are essentially apps stores, and maybe the most relevant ones for providers who use those EHRs.

My conclusion was that the real value in the curation of health apps is for systems, payers, and providers. Consumers don’t use app stores for browsing and they won’t use curated ones, either. Consumers will go to app stores to find specific apps or they’ll get to app stores through links to specific apps. The curated app stores hold value for providers, though, especially as more and more providers are start learning or hearing about mobile apps.

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In the spirit of the recent discussion I saw on Twitter about defining mHealth (see above), I wanted to cover some another side of mHealth — the device side of it. Mobile apps and devices are different, though the differences start to blur when you look at apps that only work when connected to a device. In either case, I think of them differently, and I think of devices and apps as subsets of the broader "mHealth" bucket. In addition to apps and devices, I also think of mobile services, like messaging, as a another bucket for mhealth.

I was thinking after my last post about other areas of mobile health that have a lot of noise and hype. What came to mind first was connected devices, or devices that interface with phones and tablets. That’s a fast-growing market, with companies like AliveCor and CellScope as examples of bringing remote data collection and diagnosis to the masses. We seem to see more of these every week, many of them on crowd-funding sites.

When it comes to filters and curation, there’s a need for both consumers, patients, and members as well as for providers. For consumers, it’s helpful to comparison shop for activity trackers, wireless scales, and maybe sleep monitors. These types of devices are catering to people who are already motivated and looking for ways to track and quantify themselves.

The mobile health device list for providers is different. For providers, devices fall into three categories:

  1. devices that can be used by patients for self management;
  2. devices that can be used by patients to create data remote management by the provider;
  3. devices that can be used by providers in directly caring for patients.

There is overlap between these categories. I am defining the categories based on use cases. Each has a different use case, even if the actual device is the same.

For the first category, the best example is the Telcare glucometer that diabetic patients can use to track glucose and get immediate feedback and advice. Consumers can use devices in this category to better manage their own conditions. Similar devices include Gooko and Asthmapolis (now Propellor Health). I imagine you could also lump in things like Fitbit into this category as well.

Telcare also fits into the second category as a device that a provider can use to better manage patients. Telcare offers a dashboard for providers to track patient collected data remotely and adjust treatment base on those readings. Providers use these devices to better manage patients remotely. Asthmapolis and Glooko also fit into this category, as does Fitbit if providers used that data. You can easily see expansion to labs by phone. We already have urine analysis by phone.

The third category includes devices that can reshape the physical exam. These make up the digital doctor bag of the future, or another way to look at this category are that these devices will be part of the health kiosk at the local retail pharmacy (or maybe the physical exam of the future is a kiosk?) The best examples for this category are the digital stethoscope, otoscope, dermatoscope, and ophthalmoscope. 

These are mostly devices that people will not own. CellScope is pushing its otoscope for parents and maybe that’s a viable path, but more of an exception than the rule. These devices digitize the physical exam with structured data and multimedia. I’m not sure who’s using these except maybe academic providers and maybe some concierge docs who do interesting home and remote visits.

One of the device listing and curation sites I’ve seen recently, and one that Kyle covered in October when he interviewed the founder Shiv Gaglani, is The Smartphone Physical. It’s a pretty barebones site that covers a device in each of 10 categories. There is an order page as well, though I can’t see why anybody would use it in its current state. The site is called Smartphone Physical and is obviously geared towards the third category above.

I don’t see this type of device filter as a massive need, at least for this category of mobile health devices. Curating the first and second categories above is needed most. Providers don’t have any idea what devices are out there and some may have an interest in recommending tools patients can use to augment care, either with patient-directed remote tools or tools for patients to record data that providers can use to enhance care. Why even break these out as separate mobile health device stores? Why not just lump them in with apps and provide a filter for "Devices: Y/N"? The third category above (tools for the physical exam), the one I don’t think will have much demand, is the only one that really needs to be broken out

Are providers looking for these devices for their patients and need a site to filter the results?

TGphoto

Travis Good, MD, MBA, is a mobile health junkie and co-founder of Catalyze. More about me.

  • kylesamani

    Travis

    A few things

    1) As you noted, the biggest challenge with categories of apps 1 and 2 above is provider education. Once providers are on board, they can relatively easily prescribe apps to patients

    2) I think the future of the digital doctor bag will be in same-day or next day delivery rental services. Good thing we have Amazon Drones coming 🙂

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