Providers interested in prescribing digital apps to help patients monitor and communicate about their health are sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer volume of mobile apps on the market. There are more than 245,000 medical apps available.
To address this issue, researchers in the Sinai App Lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System have developed RxUniverse, an enterprise-wide tool that curates apps and enables physicians to digitally prescribe evidence-based apps to patients at the point of care.
RxUniverse features a curated list of apps that have been evaluated for efficacy based on published evidence and incorporated into a digital prescription delivery system.
“As clinicians, we want to prescribe apps because some of them really add value, but we don’t know how to distinguish the ones that are proven from the ones that aren’t,” explained Ashish Atreja, M.D., M.P.H., chief technology innovation and engagement officer and director of the Sinai AppLab. “It is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Even if we know an app’s name and we tell a patient to download a particular app, the patient may go to the app store and find there are 10 apps with similar names, so they get confused about which to download,” he added. “We have an innovation lab and we build apps as well. We have faced these challenges firsthand over the last four years. We realized there had to be a better solution regarding how to get the right apps into the hands of the right patients at the right time.”
The RxUniverse system, linked to Mount Sinai’s EHR, gives apps evidence scores based on a review of the medical literature. “There are some apps that do not have an evidence base yet but that we wanted to test and build evidence for, so we have added a few of those apps as well,” Atreja added. Because the universe of medical apps is continually changing, the AppLab has a team of interns and researchers reviewing new apps. But Atreja said the AppLab also knows what Mount Sinai’s priorities and unmet needs are and they focus their reviews on those areas.
RxUniverse is part of a larger ecosystem called the Network of Digital Evidence (NODE Health), which provides a community forum and structure for health system technology experts, digital medicine tech companies, clinicians and patients to come together around digital medicine and the state of scientific evidence surrounding its design, efficacy, and implementation.
RxUniverse was piloted at five Mount Sinai sites over six weeks this summer, and Atreja said hoping they would get 100 apps prescribed during that time. “We ended up prescribing to more than 2,000 people within six weeks,” he said. “We were blown away. There is so much hunger among patients and providers. They never had these tools before. We are now expanding beyond those five sites.” One primary care site was recognized as the most engaged site.
In response to the enthusiastic reception internally, the Sinai AppLab has partnered with Mount Sinai Innovation Partners to launch a new startup company, Responsive Health, which will license RxUniverse for use by other health systems.