World’s first prescription only app

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Without our mobile phones we would be lost, appointments would be missed, and our lives would fall apart. We rely on smartphones to get us up and get us through the day but are we ready to rely on them for medical advice? An innovative new app is due to launch later this year, as BlueStar’s prescription only app for smartphone becomes a trailblazer in its field.

Could this potentially be the start of something momentous, and poses the question – just how far away are we from being prescribed apps with our medication?

Do we even want to go down that route? What are the pitfalls and the benefits? Is introducing this remoteness and prescription by app to be welcomed or feared? Will GP’s be comfortable prescribing an app with medication and how will a prescription only app be paid for? Furthermore, what restrictions will be placed on marketers with regards to promoting the app, will it fall under the ABPI code of practice as do prescription only medicines (POMs)? So, are we likely to see the buzzword POA (prescription only apps) being added to the pharma jargon dictionary?

WellDoc – a prescription only app

The Blue Star app can be downloaded to tablet, computer or smartphone in the normal way but will only become interactive with a special prescription code issued by a pharmacy. This is the first healthcare app that needs a doctor’s prescription to work and it is being trialled in a small area of the US where it is already causing quite a stir, as several large US corporations have announced plans to incorporate the app into the health cover that they offer their employees. The precise cost of the app is not yet known but speculation is that it is very likely to be some way over $100 per month.

This medical app has been put through its paces by the FDA in the USA and was approved for use in 2010. The app has been designed as an aid for people with type 2 diabetes. It prompts them to check blood sugar levels and gives them useful information about controlling fluctuations in glucose levels along with other advice to help them manage their condition. The prescription only app will offer encouragement and praise for regular blood sugar checking and might also issue helpful reminders to take medication with food, for instance.

Following in the wake of Nike’s FuelBand, an app that is designed to record health related performance, Blue Star’s app does not monitor a patient directly but rather provides a platform for them to use to record the information needed to best manage their condition. The question is how will doctors receive this innovation? Not having immediate control of their patient may not sit well, but BlueStar plan to calm any qualms by sending patients statistics to doctors who can then use the data to make adjustments to treatment. Another potential stumbling block may be the perceived intrusion that might be resented by patients if no immediate improvement or benefit is seen. Only time will tell if the prescription only app is going to become mainstream.