Hardly a day goes by without a report about one or more mobile health applications promising to improve patient care. One of the latest comes from the Mill City in Massachusetts, where Lowell General Hospital has announced a partnership with Lakewood, Colo.-based Healthagen LLC. That company’s brainchild is iTriage, a free smartphone app that analyses a patients’ symptoms and runs them against a national database to help patients find the nearest hospital, specialist or pharmacy.
(Disclosure: The author of this post was born at Lowell General; at 7 years old, he received four stitches in its ER after attempting a somersault in his dining room, failing miserably and whacking his head on the corner of an armoire. As such, he shares the bias of health care marketer Dan Dunlop, who considers Lowell General a fine community hospital.)
iTriage is certainly not alone. During Planning for EHR Adoption, a day-long Boston-area seminar organized and hosted by SearchHealthIT.com, David M. Barash of Concord Healthcare Strategies LLC spoke quite excitedly about some of the latest-generation mobile health applications for the iPhone. These range from remote patient monitoring systems to a point-of-care diagnostic device that collects a blood sample and, when it’s plugged into the iPhone, tests for the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which causes AIDS, and for such conditions and diseases as hepatitis and malaria. The latter app could be particularly useful in the developing world, because the disposable tool costs less than $1, Barash said.
As several practitioners said during a panel discussion at the SearchHealthIT.com seminar, smartphones are actually more beneficial to physicians than the iPad and other tablet devices, because tablets paradoxically are both too big (they don’t fit into a shirt or pants pocket) and too small (especially when compared to the 17-inch or even 21-inch monitors physicians have in their offices). It’s little surprise, then, that according to research cited by Barash, as many as 94% of physicians own a smartphone.
With that kind of adoption, the appeal of mobile health applications for physicians and patients alike only grows. It probably won’t be long before the hospital where you were born joins Lowell General in using an application like iTriage.