Happtique Offers E-Prescribing Platform for Health Apps

8/22/12Follow @arleneweintraub

Anybody with diabetes who searches their iPhone for an app to help them monitor their blood sugar will likely be overwhelmed by the choices. A simple search using the word “glucose” pulls up more than 150 results in the app store—all from companies claiming to offer the best solutions for managing diabetes. Yet very few of those claims seem to be sanctioned by any independent experts.

New York-based Happtique hopes to solve that problem by offering what its startup team refers to as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for healthcare apps. The company—which was founded in 2010 by the venture arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association—curates apps, certifies them, and then sorts them into more than 300 categories. Hospitals can license Happtique’s app-sorting system and then offer it as an e-catalog to patients and physicians.

On Monday, Happtique introduced a new layer to its platform called mRx, which allows physicians to electronically prescribe health-related apps to their patients, much like they might prescribe a drug or a visit to a medical specialist. “We believe app therapy will play a vital role in patient engagement, adherence, and compliance,” says Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique. The company will be pilot testing mRx until December, with a goal of rolling it out to a broader market next year.

Happtique was born out of a need identified by the Greater New York Hospital Association, which comprises 250 hospitals and continuing-care organizations. The hospitals wanted to offer apps to their physicians and patients, Chodor says, but “they didn’t know how to cut through all the clutter.”

So Happtique consulted with outside experts to create an app certification program. The company’s panel of experts reviews health-related apps to make sure they adhere to federal patient-privacy laws and that their overall content is accurate. Happtique doesn’t rate the apps according to popularity or any subjective standards, Chodor says, but rather certifies them as fit for physicians to use with their patients. Any app developer can apply for certification.

Happtique charges hospitals a flat annual licensing fee, says the company’s president, Corey Ackerman. The company works with each hospital to install the platform and to tailor the app catalogs to its needs. “They get the ability to create their own category classifications and display them as they wish,” Ackerman says. In addition to earning revenues from the licensing fees, Happtique takes a cut of commissions from some app sales and is able to charge distribution fees for others, he says.

The idea behind mRx is to take Happtique’s basic platform to a new level, Chodor and Ackerman say. During the pilot phase, the company will gather feedback from specialists who are particularly inclined to use health-related apps and recommend them to their patients, such as cardiologists, rheumatologists, and endocrinologists. Rather than jotting down the name of a recommended app on a piece of paper and handing it to a patient, a user of mRx can send a secure e-mail to that patient that includes a direct link to the app. During the pilot, Happtique will track how many apps are prescribed and how many patients click the “fill” button to download those apps.

Happtique has received $2.5 million in funding from Greater New York Hospital Association Ventures, of which it is currently a subsidiary. Chodor says the company is working on closing a round of funding that will allow it to spin out as an independent company. Adds Ackerman: “We have good traction in the marketplace, but we believe outside money will help us grow.”

About five hospitals are under contract to install Happtique’s platform, Ackerman says, including the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The company is on track to have more than 20 customers by year-end. Happtique’s goal for 2013 is to add an additional 100 hospitals, he says.

So far the only competition the company has spotted, Chodor says, is the old standby: docs picking up their pens and writing app recommendations on their prescription pads. “We’re early to the game. We know competition will come,” he admits. “But we’ll be excited when we see some competition, because that will mean this is a really big opportunity.”

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