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Moving Closer to an App Store for Health

June 3, 2016
by David Raths
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SMART developers get one-year ONC grant to expand platform

The ambitious goal of the SMART Platform project at Boston Children’s Hospital is to create an “App Store” for healthcare. Its developers have received a one-year award of approximately $275,000 from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to take SMART to the next level.

Kenneth Mandl, M.D., M.P.H., and Joshua Mandel, M.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have been able to demonstrate with SMART, which stands for Substitutable Medical Apps & Reusable Technology, the viability of an iPhone-like platform and apps-store approach. With the ONC funding, they plan to convert SMART’s App Gallery into a true “App Store” for health and create a sustainable infrastructure for developing clinical health IT apps that leverage the Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard. 

So far, about three dozen SMART apps have been created to date, covering everything from pediatric blood pressure measurement to genomics. Patients, clinicians and public health practitioners can tap the apps using any EHR system that supports the SMART standard.

One example of an app currently in the gallery is BP Centiles, which reads a child’s relevant vitals and calculates systolic and diastolic blood pressure percentiles normalized by age, sex, and height The app also includes a pop-up calculator and a graphical history of the child's blood pressure percentile, enabling full screening at each visit. Another is Premier’s AKI Staging app, which assists clinicians aiming to follow the clinical practice guidelines established by Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO). The app is targeted at practitioners caring for adults and children at risk for or with Acute Kidney Injury, including contrast induced acute kidney injury.

 “Our goal is to make the process of finding and evaluating an app and figuring out how to connect it to an EHR much more turnkey for providers and patients,”  said Mandl, director of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Computational Health Informatics Program, in a prepared statement.  “Unlike most apps in the iTunes or Google Play stores, these apps will connect with healthcare information systems and put their data to work.”

With collaborators such as, HL7, Geisinger Health System, the American Medical Association, the American Nursing Association, market research consultants and design companies, Mandl, Mandel and colleagues will seek to build on SMART to create consumer- and provider-friendly tools. The tools would also enhance developers’ ability to test apps and conduct simulations using sample data.