Guest Blogger: Dr. Stephen Chow, M.D.
University of Mississippi Medical Center
Division of Gastroenterology
“Our patients are craving these new, innovative ways to manage their wellbeing.”
As medical apps change the way patients view their health and wellbeing, physicians must adapt and pivot with this consideration in mind. Patients and consumers are using fitness measurable technologies (like Fitbit), using medical apps on a regular basis, and having more control over their own health. Patients want more control over their health, and we have to work together to provide this in the best way. The best medical apps work to serve as a hub for the patient: managing everything pertinent to their recovery and maintenance of wellbeing. There are currently patient-oriented apps that help with:
- Scheduling Appointments;
- Notifying if the physician will be late;
- Guiding different treatment plans;
- Providing diagnostic historical data.
Our patients are craving these new, innovative ways to manage their wellbeing. There are currently over 97,000 apps related to health and fitness mobile apps there are related to health and fitness available on the Apple store alone, and this figure is only growing. As physicians, it is our responsibility to have forthcoming conversations to ensure responsible care of our patients. A recent MedPanel survey showed that just 15% of all doctors in the U.S. are discussing medical apps with their patients. Further, 42% of those doctors surveyed admitted that their patients could benefit from the use of apps, which is encouraging in hopes that these conversations will continue to take place more frequently.
The Wall Street Journal further discusses the changing nature of medical apps in the clinical setting. From the physician’s perspective, we need to remember that the proper use of medical apps improve overall efficiency in a number of ways:
- Patient Efficiency: provides insight into patient medical history, saving time.
- Electronic Health Records (EHR): Connected EHR apps allow doctors to find records, manage information, and ensure up to date data.
- Communication: Messaging and easing modes of communication between other allied health professionals and patients save time and effort.
- Medical Information Reference: Medical manuals with relevant condition and treatment information is accessible easily.
- Patient Examination: Easing the ability to accurately examine and diagnose patients.
- Patient Monitoring: Apps can help monitor patients with chronic diseases and can provide instant warnings.
In light of further development in the mobile health industry, known as “mHealth”, I’ve compiled my favorite apps curated for patients, for physicians, and for teaching in the classroom:
Apps for Patients
An app that creates a direct communication channel between patients and healthcare providers. Patients can check test results, track medical treatments and immunizations, pay medical bills, manage appointments, access family health information, and upload health and fitness data from other health-tracking apps, including Apple Health.
Millions of people use Pregnancy + to track their pregnancies. This app also comes recommended by the U.K.’s National Health Service. The app tracks health information for soon-to-be mothers, logs doctor’s appointments, includes a kick counter, has a place to upload color baby scan images, and provides daily information about the user’s pregnancy.
iPharmacy is a tool for both patients and doctors to identify pills and find the lowest prices for prescriptions. In addition to price comparison, the app includes an electronic discount card for use at more than 60,000 participating pharmacies. Patients can also track their medications to document whether they are following the instructions prescribed by their physicians.
First Aid – American Red Cross
Accidents happen, and that’s why Red Cross made this app, Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. With Red Cross App you will be prepared for any first aid scenario with videos and simple step-by-step advice.
Doctor on Demand
A doctor will be there when you need, Using this app will help you treat most common non-emergency medical conditions over video Also psychologists and psychiatrists can address non-emergency emotional or mental health issues. You don’t have to drive and wait for an hour to see the doctor anymore, you will talk to the doctor face to face in a matter of minutes.
JustDoc Online Hospital App allows you to Video call doctors just like an in-person visit. This service makes access to high-quality medical care easy and convenient from the comfort of your home and you can keep your medical records organized in one place.
WenMD is considered the best app that offers physician-reviewed health content, symptom checker, drug and treatment information in addition to on-demand healthy living information.
Instant Heart Rate
You don’t need a dedicated heart rate monitor to get your pulse, all you need to do is put your finger on the phone’s camera, and in a couple of seconds, your pulse will be shown.
The CANImmunize (formerly ImmunizeCA) app provides Canadians with the ability to manage their families’ vaccination records with the use of their smart phones or mobile devices. Specifically, the app allows Canadians to keep track of their vaccinations, receive automatic reminders to schedule their routine vaccinations based on relevant provincial or territorial schedules, and provide access to timely and trusted information about recommended vaccinations for children, adults and travellers.
Healthmemo – Electronic Health Records
An app where patients can upload and maintain personal health records electronically. Visiting a doctor for any illness, undergoing surgeries, and buying a new insurance plan brings with it many documents in all shapes and sizes like prescription slips, medical bills, lab reports, x-rays, insurance documents and more. Maintaining all these documents is tedious and it is not possible to carry them around at all times. Digital copies (soft copies) of these documents are rarely provided by the hospitals/clinics. The app is designed to bridge this gap with the help of the ubiquitous mobile phone.
For asthma patients, this app tracks breathing and manages medications. Patients can enter their medications they take, both the regularly scheduled ones and the ones used in unusual and emergency situations. They also can enter readings from peak flow meters, which measure how well air moves out of a person’s lungs, and wheeze rate meters. A month’s worth of data is available for review and can be shared with physicians.
Apps for Teaching
Some of these are geared towards the medical school class environment, while others can be easily implemented in the undergraduate or secondary school environments. Parts of the apps could be featured as case studies or projects for students to complete.
Visible Health’s DrawMD
A free iPad app that lets physicians show patients exactly what a surgical or other procedure will entail. Conceived by surgical oncologists, it provides interactive diagrams in nine specialties, giving doctors visual tools to help explain complex medical and surgical procedures. Can also be used on the big screen to show students in the classroom context.
Human Anatomy Atlas
Gives students, doctors, and patients an up-close look at all the systems of the human body. The app provides detailed, anatomically accurate 3-D models of more than 2,500 individual structures and hundreds of definitions body systems, organs, vasculature, and nerves.
is an authoritative, evidence based e-textbook organized by a searchable list of symptoms and diseases. Each topic has a basics section with an overview, epidemiology, and pathophysiology. Of particular note is the “pearls” section, a list of clinical summary statements that are valuable for medical students to commit to memory. A bit of a steep price tag on this one: $249.99.
The Merck Manual
This pocket guide to diagnostic tests details normal ranges, collection methods, imaging studies, and abnormal value differential diagnosis. Can be used as a research tool for students to complete projects, assignments, or case studies.
Quick reference app used to look up medications, where it lists generic and trade names, as well as other information including pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, adverse effects, and sometimes has pictures to help identify the medication.
Similar to Epocrates, Medscape also has a wealth of information about medications and in addition, also contains multiple medicine-related calculators and diagnostic algorithms. Furthermore, it has a very helpful features where you can enable notifications related to your specialty where it gives updates and links to original research articles.
Helpful for when you are out of the hospital/clinic setting and what to update your patient’s on their most recent lab results, or get in touch with them regarding further managements. This app allows you to anonymously contact patients using your phone by calling from a proxy.
This is an app developed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and is ideal to brush up on screening recommendations based on age, sex, tobacco use, and sexual activity. Additionally, it lists the grade of evidence behind each recommendation made.
This app is an e-book on differential diagnosis. It is a quick and easy review to make sure you are thinking of all the possibilities.
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