Can population management improve healthcare apps? Pfizer aims to find out

Apps for Health

In an increasingly mobile-first world, apps help people manage their lives and health. But could healthcare apps work better if they were supported by population management systems?

Pfizer ($PFE) is trying to find out. It’s currently funding a trial of an independent rheumatoid arthritis app developed by Brigham and Women’s Hospital that takes a new approach to healthcare apps by integrating a population management system. The app is being used by rheumatoid arthritis patients to track activity between doctor visits--which is nothing new--but adds in a population manager who will monitor the app data from patients and alert a patient’s healthcare provider to increases in disease activity.

The trial researchers hypothesized in their proposal pitch to Pfizer that “the combined smartphone app plus population management system will improve patient satisfaction and management of RA disease activity. The rationale is that the smartphone app will increase patient involvement in disease assessment, while the population management system will support the integration of patient‐reported data into the workflow of a busy clinical practice.”

Pfizer--which markets the oral RA drug Xeljanz and awarded funding of $500,000 to the researchers for the trial--told FiercePharmaMarketing via email that because the app is independent, the company has no say in its final use. However, depending on the outcome of the trial, the pharma giant could fund the app for wider distribution in partnership with Brigham and Women’s.

“Regardless of technology, our goal is to develop meaningful solutions to help patients in living with their conditions and support their discussions with their HCPs throughout their treatment journey. When we develop mobile apps, we think about three core things--how a mobile solution can fit an unmet need, how it can be a seamless experience for our users, and how we can continuously improve that experience," a company spokeswoman said.

To date, Pfizer has developed more than 100 apps worldwide, including some current ones such as HemMobile--which helps hemophilia patients manage their condition--and Quitter’s Circle, an app in partnership with the American Lung Association that helps smokers overcome common obstacles when trying to quit.

- read more about the study here

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