EXCLUSIVE: Why your next prescription could be for an app

When your doctor writes you a prescription, you go to the pharmacy. But what if you could go to the App Store?

That’s the goal for Crestwood’s Revon Systems Inc., which hopes to one-day market its Smart COPD app as a sort of prescribable “digital therapeutic” for managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

CEO Dr. Jeroen Schouten said in an interview that “there’s a lot of potential” for that revenue model — but there are also a lot of hoops to jump through first. The company will need to prove the app actually works, get approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and apply to make it reimburseable by insurance.

The SmartCOPD app works by having users input their medical information and answer basic questions on their current symptoms, such as shortness of breath. Then the app tells them whether they’re fine, should call their doctor for a second opinion or that a flare-up is imminent and they should head straight to a hospital.

Schouten originally had planned to monetize the app through partnerships with researchers from the worlds of academics and commercial pharmaceutical and medical device development. The app could match eligible patients to the partners’ clinical trials.

That’s still a possibility, but “at some stage, we would have to make the revenue model work,” he said. “Every digital health care company is looking at how to make a revenue model that works.”

But the prescription model looks promising, since it’s already has worked for other health application companies. Schouten points to WellDoc, whose prescribeable app helps doctors and patients manage Type II diabetes.

If the prescription model pans out, patients could download the free app, and get a code from their doctor to unlock prescribed add-ons — sort of like an in-app purchase.

But, again, Revon needs to make sure the app works — both in terms of user design and in actually helping people effectively manage their chronic conditions.

“You’ve got to really know the market,” Schouten said. “You’ve got to really know how it works.”

Originally published in Louisville Business First