Multi-purpose Apps? -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Multi-purpose Apps?

© / Detlef Krieger

MEDICA 2012 in Düsseldorf (14th to 17th November), the world’s largest medical trade fair, with more than 4,500 exhibitors from at least 60 different countries, will provide an overview of the latest app trends and some sample applications. Parallel to the presentation of the exhibitors, the “App Circus”, a program element organised in cooperation with “dotopen” as part of the MEDICA HEALTH IT FORUM (formerly MEDICA MEDIA), will demonstrate just how lively this branch is. At the App Circus (further information online at innovative health apps will be presented by their creators with the goal of bringing developers, start-up companies and the organisations involved in the software development together with potential users and project partners from the medical sector and on the purchasing side.

Prof. Volker Amelung, Specialist Professor for International Health Systems Research, Hannover Medical School, and member of the Expert Circle of the MEDICA HEALTH IT FORUM (Hall 15) believes that these compact applications are certain to leave their mark, not only on the secondary health market, in other words, the privately financed market sector. He sees major opportunities particularly in the areas of prevention and treatment adherence. As an example of a successful app in this area he mentions “MyPill” from the pharmacy “Zur Rose”, which offers assistance with correctly taking contraceptive pills. It not only reminds you of the correct time, but also documents, among other things, the history of your use of the pills. An adjustable warning can draw your attention to an increased risk of pregnancy, if you have skipping or missed taking a pill. Similar applications, especially for complex therapy regimens – i.e. many pills and a complicated schedule that must be followed precisely, for combating HIV for example – could save money for the public health service. According to Amelung, apps like this would therefore be interesting for the health insurance companies. There are of course limits to what can be achieved, with regard to the care of dementia patients for example. Amelung is nonetheless optimistic about the application potential, “Even if apps can only be used by twenty per cent of the population, they would be of benefit to these people. There will never be a solution for all problems.”

The German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI), has recently published a leaflet with a warning, based on the results of studies, that the indications for the use of mobile devices must be thoroughly examined. It has been shown that in the area of teledermatology the quality of the diagnostic findings are perhaps not bad, but well below the level required for a direct personal evaluation and the resulting treatment decision. In the meantime, the ZVEI has also stated that there are a broad variety of application areas in the professional medical sector; in particular:

• Simple data transfer (more or less as a modem)
• Mobile ward rounds
• Viewing of ECGs and X-ray images
• Displaying alphanumerical values
• Diagnosis and treatment decisions, etc.

From the point of view of the ZVEI, users of the devices and apps ultimately have a certain amount of responsibility for the way in which they use them. They should (according to a leaflet published by the association) ensure that they only use the devices in the context for which they were designed and advertised by the manufacturer.

App for dialysis patients undergoing trials

The current trials being carried out by organisations such as Siemens-Forschung Corporate Technology, Vivantes Clinic, Telemedicine Centre Charité (TMCC), Prisma, Tembit and other partners could also be relevant to the health market. They are looking at how, with the help of an app, patients with kidney damage can receive dialysis in a gentle and safe manner in their own homes. In a test, which is the first of its kind in the world, selected dialysis patients in Berlin will be equipped with a telemedical assistance system. This should enable them to perform a telemedically assisted peritoneal dialysis every day by themselves, with a doctor helping via remote control. The field test, which should run for several months, is part of the “Smart Senior” project funded by the Federal Ministry for Research. Its goal is to increase the quality of life for elderly people and to enable them to live a largely independent life at home. In this field test, an app on a smartphone lists the vital signs as agreed with the doctor. It guides the patient through the measurement of blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation or ECG. The measuring instruments encode the measurements and provide them with a pseudonym before sending them via a special router, known as a Med-I-Box, to the dialysis centre. The app ensures that the data has arrived at its destination. Later, the data is saved in the patient’s medical record on the server of the TMCC. The doctor checks the vital signs and treatment data daily and also receives an automatic message if any abnormalities are detected. As a result, he can detect health changes earlier than before and contact the patients immediately. In this way, complications can be avoided.

App solutions for hospitals and practices

A more general approach is followed by RAM Mobile Data, which the company already put forward at MEDICA 2011. The starting point of their considerations was the idea that all employees in hospitals and nursing facilities need to have fast access to various type of information. The company developed special organisation-specific app stores for this purpose, which are designed to enable fast access. Employees in hospitals and nursing facilities can use their own smartphones or tablet PCs to access the apps available to them and thus view all the relevant data. Direct editing and storage means that the patient data are always automatically up to date. Only authorised employees have access to the hospital-specific app store and rights to download the individual apps can be defined for different user groups. For instance, a doctor can use an application to update the patient’s medical record, whereas the caregivers may only have reading rights on their version. That works independently of the platform – both at the backend and for mobile devices – and is compatible with all hospital information systems. This trend, known as “Bring Your Own Device”, could have several advantages. Hospitals, for example, could save money in the procurement area. On the other hand, problems are posed by the lack of a clear distinction between private and company hardware as well as the security aspect. In this regard, the solution of hospital-specific app stores is supposed to assist with saving the apps on a separate area of the mobile device. In this way, firstly, it is possible to avoid any confusion between private and professional data. Secondly, if the smartphone or tablet is lost or an employee leaves the organization, the hospital has the ability to delete the hospital-specific apps and the associated data from a distance, without effecting private contents.

The CGM Mobile app from CompuGroupMedical is specially designed for the needs of doctors working in their own practice. In future, doctors using this app in conjunction with their iPhone or iPad will always have their file card ready to hand. The online technology platform “” enables secure mobile access to medical documents from the medical software “ALBIS” and provides an optimized display on the iPhone or iPad. This trend-setting function is particularly useful for house calls and gives the doctor more mobility and comfort. It is also possible to view directions or call the patient directly from the app.

The above examples show that the development of new apps for the health sector is still an exciting topic and the presentations of new solutions will certainly provide plenty to talk about once again at MEDICA 2012.

Online information:
Martin-Ulf Koch/ Larissa Browa