I’ve always been a little skeptical of the push to get doctors to prescribe apps.
To begin with, it would be awfully easy for us to replicate the many problems of medication prescribing. Chief among these is the tendency for doctors to prescribe what’s been marketed to them, rather than what’s actually a good option for the patient, given his or her overall medical situation, preferences, and values.
Then there are the added complexities peculiar to the world of apps, and of using apps.
A medication, once a pharmaceutical company has labored to bring it to market, basically stays the same over time. But an app is an ever-morphing entity, usually updating and changing several times a year. (Unless it stops updating. That’s potentially worse.)
Meanwhile, the mobile devices with which we use apps are *also* constantly evolving, and we’re all basically forced to replace our devices with regularity.
Last but not least, how can we know the benefit of prescribing one app compared to another? Studies are few and far between. And by the time a study is published, everything – the app, people’s use of technology, the mobile devices, the sensors – will have gone through several phases of change. This means we generally won’t have much of an evidence base, when it comes to the prescribing of a given app.
All of this means that it would be a Herculean task for physicians to maintain enough current knowledge about apps, such that they could prescribe them in a thoughtful and informed matter.
So let’s scrap the talk of prescribing apps, and instead focus on what we really can prescribe: what a patient should track.