Is It Time for a Health App Store?


By Sven Larsen (@svenplarsen)

In these cash strapped times, we’re all looking for money whenever we can find it. And few organizations have been hit harder than charities and Not for Profit organizations. So we try and make a point of highlighting “win-win” propositions that help out worth organizations while also helping consumers.

Case in point, we received information from the American Diabetes Association about their new Facebook App, a Diabetes Risk Test that helps raise awareness about the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. The test is easy and free (heck you don’t even have to leave Facebook to take it). And best of all, the ADA receives $5 from a corporate sponsor for every test that’s taken. What worthy organization is helping the ADA with their funding, you ask? Why Boar’s Head delicatessen meats, of course.

Say what? With all the efforts being undertaken by Pharma companies when it comes to Diabetes education, Boar’s Head was the only partner the ADA could find? That seems pretty bizarre. especially when the next suggested step after taking the test is to participate in a program called “CheckUp America” which is partially sponsored by Janssen. You know the same Janssen that our pal John Mack was chastising for getting out of the Facebook business a couple of weeks ago. In fact, John’s blog has been full of initiatives by Roche, Sanofi and others to improve diabetes education using digital technology.

There’s clearly a need for all of these different programs (especially with the ADA noting that an estimated 79 million, or one in three adults have prediabetes) but are we at the point where we’re seeing a digital land grab around disease states. For diabetes sufferers, the ADa Facebook page is probably one of the first places they would visit to learn more about their condition. Would Pharma companies be better off designing or sponsoring more apps for that digital destination (or the organizations website) than spearheading all these individual efforts? have we even bother to ask, what’s best for the patient?

Obviously, Pharma companies are businesses and in addition to their philanthropic urges, they also want to increase trial and use of their product. But it seems like creating digital tools has become so easy that everyone wants to promote their own branded solutions. That may be good for product awareness but it’s not good for confused consumers who are already inundated with information and paralyzed by choice.

What’s the solution? Perhaps we need a central database for all these digital tools, curated by an objective third party who can provide ratings and reviews as well. We’re probably all familiar with the App Store model but this is also done successfully by organizations like WordPress and Mozilla, who both highlight and regulate developers who create content for their platforms. Certainly, there are numerous websites listing digital tools and apps related to healthcare and even providing user feedback. But to my knowledge there’s no one with the gravitas of a CONSUMER REPORTS or professional organization like the AMA that’s providing this service.

Who do you think is best suited to take up this challenge? And if you were a Pharma company would you be an active supporter of a concept like this? In the end, all of these tools only have value if they are utilized by their target audience. How can we better help consumers find the help they need online and improve quality of life for our digital audiences?



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