Health IT, Hospitals

NYC’s Mount Sinai has multi-layered approach to health apps

Mount Sinai Health System has multiple strategies for helping its 35,000 employees sort through the tens of thousands of health and medical apps on the market, including development of its own apps.

Mount Sinai Health System in New York City is in the process of recruiting 300 patients with inflammatory bowel disease for a randomized clinical trial of HealthPromise, a homegrown app that collects patient-reported data in the context of disease status and aggregates this information with patient records.

This aggregation helps create a “unified report card” for clinicians to reference, according to Dr. Ashish Atreja, chief technology innovation and engagement officer in Mount Sinai’s Department of Medicine. “They can have more proactive disease management,” explained Atreja, who directs Sinai AppLab, a group that launched three years ago to conduct research on healthcare apps of all kinds and commercialize the best ideas developed within Mount Sinai.

The trial will be a real-time “pragmatic” study, in which physicians can modify the “dosage” of alerts sent to patients based on their current health status and daily activities, Atreja said.

HealthPromise, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, already is live at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Miami.

Meanwhile, Sinai AppLab now is a 10-person operation, including eight technology developers. In its short lifespan, it has created six Android and/or Apple iOS apps and a platform to connect apps to Mount Sinai’s Epic Systems EHR, and has another 22 potential projects in the pipeline, Atreja said.

This is just one way in which Mount Sinai is helping its 35,000 employees sort through the tens of thousands of health and medical apps already on the market.

“It’s not a sustainable strategy to have many different startups” supplying technology to the health system, Atreja said. “How do we find the apps that make the most difference?”

While Sinai AppLab works on in-house development, Sudipto Srivastava, senior director of e-health at Mount Sinai, leads evaluation of external apps.

“We are the front line” for evaluation and demonstration of new technologies, Srivastava told MedCity News, and the e-health team helps lower resistance to adoption of worthwhile apps. “Our conversations with physicians can be more practical and less sales-y,” Srivastava said.

“There’s a little bit of an art” to picking and recommending apps for medical staff, according to Srivastava, though he does have one general rule. “It has to be practical,” Srivastava said.

The offices of the CIO and CMIO also play roles in sorting through innovations before new apps make it to the front lines of medical practice, since sales pitches to providers tend to flow through these channels. “I use a little bit of discretion before I pass them to the e-health team,” said Mount Sinai CMIO Dr. Bruce Darrow.

While Sinai AppLab has built the platform to tie apps to the EHR, Darrow, a practicing cardiologist, said that that ability to integrate is not the primary motivator when picking apps. “The goal shouldn’t be to feed the EHR. The goal should be to take care of the patient,” Darrow said. “We forget that sometimes.”