One of the engines that powers the digital health revolution is the smartphone. Most of us now carry a power computer in our pockets, capable of performing a wide range of useful tasks. But there are more than 245,000 health-related apps in the Apple Store alone; how can physicians make sense out of all the choices, and help their patients manage their apps for health and medical uses?

The App Lab at Mount Sinai Hospital has developed a solution. Rx Universe is a platform that helps healthcare professionals choose the right app to help their patients. The system relies on a curated list of evidence-based selections, and lets doctors “prescribe” an app directly to the patient’s phone or other mobile device. In this way, healthcare workers get the data that they need to monitor and record information to patient health records. The apps can help improve patient adherence to medication and other treatment instructions. The system also delivers information and satisfaction surveys to patients, gives them access to their records, and even lets them schedule appointments. The result is improved efficiency and higher patient satisfaction with their customer experience.

In a pilot trial, five clinical sites participated with the goal of prescribing 100 apps to patients within a six week period. The end result was that apps were prescribed for more than 2,000 patients in that trial period. Providers reported that the system fit well with their normal work flow, and patients were more engaged in their treatment.

One way to lower healthcare costs is to make treatment more efficient and more effective. By helping patients be more engaged in their treatment, by reducing time spent on routine tasks, and by improving data gathering and treatment adherence, systems like Rx Universe can deliver benefits that will lower costs and improve outcomes.