Progress Notes

We’ve got an app for that: Imagining the Ultimate Health App

Julia WangBy Julia Wang, MS1

Are there apps that you open, without fail, every time you check your phone? Terribly tedious things such as monitoring plane ticket price fluctuations suddenly becomes easy. I use apps to manage all aspects of traveling – maps, plane tickets, bus schedules, etc. so why not do the same for my health?

An app that helps organize everything needed to monitor and improve daily health would make prioritizing health so much easier! Recently, I’ve been dreaming of a “Target” of health services in the form of a mobile app, something practical, streamlined, and reliable.

When I was trying to lose weight, I discovered MyFitnessPal. When I wanted to train for a half marathon, I was obsessed with Nike Running. What if these two amazing apps merged into one and had another range of health related functions? – fit bit (activity and sleep tracker), medical records, doctors’ appointments, doctors recommendations and prescriptions — what can we NOT fit into a phone app?

In my imagination, I debated on whether or not to include insurance companies in the endeavor. The moment I decide to involve them, I am sure it will become an issue that is too daunting for any entrepreneur. However, the answer was clear once I thought from a patient’s perspective. Would I want to read about an insurer’s policy when I am sick? No way. The only thing I want from an insurance company at that point is to know how much I am going to pay. The app would be a good place to help organize the bits and pieces of information that the hospital and insurance companies mail out over the course of months. If each patient has a specific profile on this apps’ database, everyone can send correspondences to a secure and organized location.

Before I knew it, I felt a sense of dread trying to visualize this Ultimate Health App. I had to pause and strive to simplify my dream app a little bit at a time. There are only a few ways to simplify things: deconstruction or centralization; I think managing health becomes more efficient when simplified by centralization because it requires intense cooperation among multiple aspects.

Naturally, all this thinking led to a list.

Functions of an Ultimate Health App include keeping track of:

  1. Your own health –  including physical activity, food intake, mood and vital signs.
  2. Doctors’ recommendations –  including medication and goals for life style changes.
  3. Doctors’ appointments and billing  – including paperwork and scheduling such as regular checkups, test results, and insurance company correspondences.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if everything is all in one app? On the other hand, sensitive information may be an issue, but even banks have apps to let people move money around securely; there must be a way to keep medical records private as well.

In a way, condensing all these functions would result in a complicated app, but certainly more centralized and efficient. In a much more ideal world, an all-inclusive application would provide the potential platform of a mobile doctor available through Facetime or even the possibility of real time recommendation updates based on current data or new findings. But that involves a whole other session of debate.

5 thoughts on “We’ve got an app for that: Imagining the Ultimate Health App

  • Julia we are doing research on mHealth Apps to improve surgical outcomes in the dept of surgery at BCM. We would welcome participation by students. feel free to contact me for details. This is an extremely important area for innovation as patient engagement through mobile technology self care will fundamentally change the way we practice in the future.

  • Do you know about MyChart? It works on mobile devices, and while it has some flaws, it’s a great beginning to exactly what you are looking for. It’s part of our Epic suite of applications that BCM uses for our EMR.

    • Thank you for your comment! I’m definitely excited to see BCM working on an application like this. I plan on trying it out myself and check out all the available functions.

  • This is a great idea! My concern though is the issue of whether there needs to be an established patient-physician relationship before initiation of telemedicine services, which aren’t required by many telemedicine companies. This concern was raised recently by the Teladoc lawsuit and changes for telemedicine made by the Texas Medical Board – I know in their terms and conditions of apps like HealthTap, the company washes theirs hands of this issue of “established relationship” by saying that their information is “FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND IS IN NO WAY INTENDED TO CREATE A PHYSICIAN – PATIENT RELATIONSHIP AS DEFINED BY STATE AND FEDERAL LAW”, but will patients understand the difference in the services they are receiving.

    • I agree that the patient-doctor relationship outside of traditional office visits are not well defined yet. I think this problem extends to a lot of other direct-to-consumer health care like genetic testing and drug advertisements.

      How much regulation is necessary? Who is responsible if false or harmful information is released? Who follows through with these patients? So many questions!

      I wonder if it is inevitable that easy access to care comes with these risks. There must be a way to stay efficient and safe at the same time! I truly think that start-ups like HealthTap and Invitae help accelerate the conversation and help us get closer to a better solution.


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