A Q&A with David Pope, PharmD, CDE, cofounder of Spark Health.
A new app called Spark Health gives patients the tools they need to pave their way to health, with the help of community pharmacists.
The app offers a database of exercise videos, healthy meal plans, and an easy way to interact with their local pharmacist.
A video explanation of the app asks patients, “Did you know your pharmacist could be your health coach?” Through Spark Health, pharmacists can provide patient education and encouragement. Patients’ health goals and results are delivered straight to their pharmacist, which inspires accountability for the patient as well as a deeper relationship between pharmacist and patient.
Spark Health allows patients to track health goals related to blood pressure, weight loss, and smoking cessation.
The food-related aspects of the app give patients the choice to view gluten-free and diabetic-friendly suggestions. If a person is craving Mexican and a protein such as beef, the app will offer recipes based on those selections through Spark Health’s partner Yummly, which displays the calories and number of ingredients.
Patients can select from various types of exercise, including cardio and yoga, as well as specific areas of the body they want to focus on.
“Check-ins” let patients and pharmacists track their progress. These check-ins ask questions about whether or not patients have met all their goals for healthy eating and exercise that week or if they took their medication every day at the appropriate time.
Pharmacy Careers spoke with David Pope, PharmD, CDE, co-founder of Spark Health, about the app:
Q: What is the main goal of the app?
A: The primary purpose of the app is to provide a new pathway of communication between pharmacists and their patients, as well as to offer a customized experience that empowers users to improve chronic disease states. The app provides the information, encouragement, and monitoring it takes to reach their health goals. Depending on the patient’s specific disease state(s), the app alters itself to create a personalized experience. For example, patients can build meals simply by entering one ingredient they have in their kitchen and coupling it with the type of food they’re craving. Users can also track their exercise and workouts to video-based routines based on the types of exercises they enjoy the most.
Q: What inspired you and Dan Lawson to create the app?
A: Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths each year, and treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86% of our nation’s health care costs. Dan and I are committed to combatting this trend by empowering the community pharmacist with the right tools to prevent and manage chronic diseases. There may not be a red light in every town in America, but there’s almost always a community pharmacy. This app, combined with the power of the local clinical community pharmacist, is becoming a powerful combination throughout the United States.
Q: What kind of patients would benefit the most from Spark Health?
A: While health apps are everywhere, we are the first health app to deliver the information, such as weight and blood pressure, to their clinical community pharmacist, who serves as their health coach. In addition, patients can build meals and exercises in an innovative way that makes it simple for them to engage in lifestyle modification. The best part, however, is that it builds a new form of communication between patients and their pharmacist.
Q: What kind of feedback have you received so far?
A: We’ve been extremely excited to see the demographics of patients who are downloading and using the app so far. While it’s too early to tell, our initial analysis is showing that the older generation is downloading it as much as the younger generation. We’re especially excited to see how pharmacists have received the app. In the end, pharmacists are seeing this app as an opportunity to get more involved in patient care.
Q: What sets your app apart from other health apps?
A: Let’s face it: there are hundreds of thousands of health apps in the marketplace. What makes ours different? It’s the local clinical community pharmacist. Along with the ability to build meals and exercises, our app creates a smart experience for patients living with chronic disease. If they have diabetes, for example, the app will ask them specific questions that can help monitor the efficacy of the drug, side effects, and lifestyle modification, such as exercise. There’s no other app in the marketplace that is built specifically for the community pharmacist in this way.
Q: Do you see technology becoming a bigger part of pharmacists’ lives? What will be the benefits or challenges associated with more integrated technology?
A: Technology is absolutely becoming a part of our daily work flow. In the past, for example, we’ve never been able to monitor patients for efficacy of medications. With our app, however, we’re beginning to change this model. While current technologies have centered around the prescription-filling process, tomorrow’s technologies will focus on patient outcomes and monitoring. We’re excited to launch even more outcomes-focused technologies in the next few months.