Vital Signs Blog

New app, developer challenge launched at Health 2.0 Conference

The annual Health 2.0 Conference is wrapping up in Santa Clara, Calif., today, and with it come several launches worth noting.

One is the start of a $100,000 developer's challenge, seeking cloud-based, “innovative health applications that will revolutionize the way physicians and hospitals educate patients,” according to the contest sponsors, Dignity Health, San Francisco; Box, Los Altos, Calif., a cloud-based computer services and data storage provider; and the Social Capital Partnership, a Palo Alto, Calif., venture capital firm. Apps should “deliver health information and engage patients in taking a more proactive approach to their health,” the sponsors' news release said.

Winners will also receive one month of free office space and mentoring from Social Capital. Submissions are due Jan. 10, 2014.

Another launch is of a free mobile app for clinicians with a clinical decision-support tool that geo-locates bacterial infections. It's called Epocrates Bugs + Drugs and, for now, is available only on Apple smartphones and tablets using the iOS 7 operating system. It's free for downloading at the Apple App Store, even to nonsubscribers of Epocrates, which was voted tops by Modern Healthcare readers last year in the Most Important Mobile Healthcare Apps competition.

The app queries the database of Athenahealth, which sells a Web-based electronic health-record system, and enables clinicians to view a list of bacteria, including those that are drug-resistant, observed in urine, blood and skin from patients in their communities.

The information should help physicians “identify common and uncommon bugs in the communities where their patients live,” and “access critical resistance information to formulate the best treatment plan,” according to a news release about the app launch.

Athenahealth, headquartered in Watertown, Mass., purchased the San Mateo, Calif., mobile app maker in March for a reported $293 million. Athenahealth's software ranks as No. 8 among complete EHR systems used by physicians and other eligible professionals in ambulatory-care settings to achieve Medicare meaningful-use targets under the federal EHR incentive payment program, according to CMS data.

Because of socio-economic differences, compliance rate variations, and other variables, “being in different locations can give you different resistance patterns,” even from one part of a city or metro area to another, said Dr. Rajesh Gupta, an infectious disease specialist with the Department of Health Policy at Stanford University, who provided feedback to Epocrates while the app was being developed.

Hospitals often map these differences, Gupta said, but few office-based practitioners have ready access to them.

“You have a good idea what’s coming in, but you don’t have the actual data to drive the decision and that’s key,” Gupta said.

One limit to the app’s utility right now is the finite amount of data Athenahealth has in its database. The company claims it has data from 15 million patients.

“In an ideal world, you’d want the system to cover 100% of the United States,” Gupta said, but, “now, it’s ready for launch.”

“At least you have something to guide a decision,” he said, “and it will get better over time.”

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn


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