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Stanford Medicine

Health Disparities, Patient Care, Public Health, Technology

Foundation launches app challenge to develop tools for selecting doctors, hospitals

The Robert Wood Foundation has introduced a $100,000 app challenge to spur development of user-friendly smartphone and computer tablet tools that help patients compare the quality of care provided by their local doctors and hospitals. iMedicalApps reports:

Teams will use data collected as part of RWJF’s Aligning Forces for Quality initiative, their signature effort to improve the quality of health care in 16 targeted communities nationwide.

Aligning Forces community alliances has already developed publicly available online reports about the quality of care delivered in their local communities, including measures for diabetes care and the safety of local hospitals. Participating developers will help make the consumer experience with these data more dynamic, interactive, and user-friendly than when the information is simply displayed on the website.

What I found most interesting about this particular app challenge is the potential for the winning tools to empower patients and, potentially, address disparities in quality of care. In a 2009 1:2:1 podcast, Kim Rhoads, MD, assistant professor of general surgery at Stanford, discussed the difficulties facing patients, particularly those with low socioeconomic status, in selecting which health-care providers to treat them and where to receive their care.

Although Rhoads’ research focuses on racial disparities in cancer treatment and outcomes, other studies have shown that where patients living in low-resource communities, regardless of their race, can be a significant contributor to disparities in health care. As the mobile adoption rates increase across minority groups, it will be interesting to see if mobile apps are effective at reducing health disparities.

Previously: American Medical Association unveils app challenge finalists, Federal contest aims to spur development of public health apps for Facebook and White House announces “Apps for Healthy Kids” winners

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