The healthcare app sandbox just got a little friendlier
Ten organizations with considerable interest in the digital health landscape have joined forces to collaborate on a platform that would make it easier for app developers – and, eventually, healthcare providers – to launch programs using different apps. The goal, organizers say, is to knock down the technological barriers that hinder broad adoption of mHealth.
"We want to have a coherence in the system so that we can actually prescribe multiple apps," said John Mattison, MD, assistant medical director and chief medical information officer for Kaiser Permanente. He called the collaboration "a low-overhead approach for developers and device manufacturers."
Called the Catalyst Initiative, the project is spearheaded by Open mHealth, a non-profit launched in 2011 whose mission is to "break down the barriers in mobile health to integration among mHealth solutions and unlock the potential for mHealth." It was unveiled during the final day of the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA)'s 8th Annual Convergence Summit this week in San Diego.
The initiative consists of the WLSA, Kaiser Permanente, the Continua Alliance, Qualcomm Life, Entra Health Systems, Calit2 (the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology), FoodCare, Ginger.io, TicTrac and WellTok.
In unveiling the project, Ida Sim, MD, PhD, a co-founder of Open mHealth and professor of medicine and co-director of the Biomedical Informatics of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at UCSF, pointed out that the consumer market is now "flooded" by more than 20,000 health apps, many of which have their own standards and capabilities.
"The apps don't add up," she said.
Mattison said the concept is already in use at Kaiser, which is piloting a project called "360' Data for Diabetes." The project involves integrating behavioral analysis from Ginger.io's app with blood glucose and weight data from Entra Health's MyGlucoHealth system, all on the Qualcomm Life 2Net hub.
“We have a very talented and dedicated group of innovative clinicians who are working with multiple vendors, all in a single pilot using the Open mHealth architecture," he said in a release issued by Open mHealth. "While individual apps alone can provide modest value, it is the coordination of sensing technologies, analytics, behavioral economics and clinical workflows which constitute the critical opportunity to create the 'behavioral symphony for wellness' necessary to effectively and persistently modify behaviors to improve the health of a population.”
Chuck Parker, Continua's executive director, pointed out that more than 90 companies and organizations around the world now ascribe to Continua's standards for device connectivity. What's needed, he said, is a means of bringing standards into those app capabilities.
"You're only as strong as your ecosystem," pointed out Kabir Kasargod, Qualcomm Life's director of business development, who sees the initiative as a means of "doing right by the user."
"We want to remove all the frictions in the market," added Maneesh Goyal, WellTok's vice president of corporate development.
Open mHealth officials have noted that the Catalyst Initiative is evident in several ongoing projects, including an effort by WellTok to create a "nutritious" data exchange for health plans and population health managers, which will eventually be used by FoodCare to deliver advanced and personalized nutrition guidance to people with nutrition-related chronic diseases. In addition, TicTrac is using Open mHealth APIs to integrate data streams from various sources on its Lifestyle Design platform, and Calit2's Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego is using Open mHealth in its DELPHI research project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to examine the integration of geolocation and health, particularly for those with diabetes or asthma.