Such concerns have already persuaded Todd Moore, the founder of TMSOFT, a company that has sold millions of its “white noise”-generating apps, to steer clear of programs that collect consumer data.
“I don’t want to get into a situation where I’m spending all my money on legal matters to make sure I’m following all the rules,” he said. “That would just kill this industry.”
He said he would like to see Congress crack down on “patent trolls” who file aggressive intellectual property lawsuits. That’s why his company sits on the board of directors of the ADA.
Calgary Scientific and other companies that develop mobile medical apps occupy one of the thorniest niches in the app world. The Food and Drug Administration last year proposed guidelines to ensure apps used for treatment and diagnoses are held to the same standards as traditional medical devices. Makers must also convince lawmakers that their products protect patient privacy. And they’re monitoring the Federal Communications Commission debate over spectrum allocation to make sure their products have enough bandwidth to work reliably. IBM Corp. estimates annual mobile health app sales will reach $50 billion by 2017.
The FDA last fall approved Calgary Scientific’s ResolutionMD Mobile app for iPhones and iPads. A Mayo Clinic study found the app could reduce the time to diagnose a stroke victim by 11 minutes by transmitting CT scans and MRIs to specialists’ digital devices. The company is trying to expand its use to ultrasound and X-rays.
“I don’t think the actual regulatory process could be changed much for mobile apps without a complete overhaul of the way [the] FDA approves medical devices,” said Kyle Peterson, the company’s director of government and regulatory affairs.
That’s where a lobbyist could come in handy. But, he added, “we are a small company and lobbyists are expensive.”
Indeed, most app developers are too small to retain major K Street firms. They count on the largess of companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, which seek to make their platforms the preferred destination for application developers to offer the broadest range of products.
Last year, Microsoft gave more to ACT and the Business Software Alliance than any of the 25 other trade associations it supported, according to company documents. ACT is not registered to lobby because it spends less than 20 percent of its roughly $5 million budget on lobbying activity. The group spends most of its funds on workshops and policy briefings for developers.
Google, which declined to comment for this story, sits on the board of the ADA along with Research in Motion Ltd., the makers of BlackBerry. The group declined to provide its budget but said it provides free membership to individual developers thanks to “corporate members whose annual dues range depending on the size and focus of the company,” according to a spokesman.
Legislation earlier this year designed to stop illegal content-sharing online served as a wake-up call to app developers, who, like Internet pioneers a generation ago, were inclined to ignore what goes on in D.C.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.