While the majority of healthcare apps were recently found lacking—whether it be through their functionality or adoption (usually both)—a recent competition, conducted by Novartis, looked to buck that trend.

The drugmaker’s two-day Mobile Health Challenge brought over 200 companies and developers to San Francisco to compete for cash prizes totaling $40,000. The aim was to develop “mobile platform-optimized and web-based solutions” that helped caregivers look after loved ones with heart failure.

The apps were rated on four criteria: how they addressed the challenges facing caregivers and patients, demonstration of a creative and innovative solution, ability to promote rapid uptake and use in the market, and  feasibility as a mobile solution.

Novartis chose to focus on heart failure due to the “the stress on caregivers and patients [which] can impact their emotional and physical health, and often goes unaddressed,” the company said in a statement, adding, “Innovative technology solutions is one of the many steps where we can help address this unmet need.”

Tina Tuttle, business partner, communications, for Novartis, told MM&M by e-mail: “The mHealth challenge reinforced the potential of mobile health applications and tools to facilitate caregiving outside of traditional healthcare settings; especially in the context of rising use of smartphones and other mobile technologies.”

“The core concept of the challenge was to capture the spirit of competition and to produce concepts outside the traditional design and development process,” Tuttle added.

The winning app—developed by Sense.ly—was a medical assistant avatar (pictured) that lets users remotely monitor a patient diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF). 

It scored high on three marks, said Tuttle. “The app has a simple user interface that leverages voice recognition, captures qualitative and quantities data, and provides information to assist with lifestyle decisions.”

Novartis said it intends to flesh out the prototype into a full-fledged app.

The app may come to fruition at the same time as Relaxin (serelaxin), a drug the company is currently investigating for the treatment of acute heart failure. Relaxin, which received FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy Designation this past June, has been shown in trials to ease strain on blood vessels and the heart. Phase III results, released last November, demonstrated a 37% reduction in deaths compared to placebo.