It's a safe bet that one of your doctors has an iPhone. But what you may not realize is that he or she is using it as part of your overall treatment. From reading APGAR scores to x-rays, there is a fascinating array of health-care tech available in app form. Some are created by savvy developers, while others are built out of necessity by the doctors. Currently, the FDA has no over-arching regulation in place for mobile medical apps, despite the fact that they have indicated in the past that under certain circumstances the iPhone may be considered a medical device and therefore regulated as one, according to a report by Brian Dolan on Mobihealthnews.
"Many medical imaging software applications are considered medical devices and, as such, are regulated by the FDA," says Justin Dearborn, CEO of Merge Healthcare. "FDA regulations mandate that rigorous processes must be followed during software development, productization, and maintenance." Dedicated resources, domain knowledge and familiarity with standards allow companies such as Merge to speed up the submission process, but approval varies by product and the process to get an app to market, as outlined on the FDA's Web site, is a rigorous one.
However, data mined by Mobclix, the industry's largest mobile ad exchange, shows record growth in health-care apps: 1,399 are currently available, up from just 616 in June. It will be interesting to see if this steady increase spurs the FDA to create special regulations just for medical apps. In the meantime, here are a few noteworthy downloads as prescribed by professionals for Fast Company.
What it does: Epocrates is a suite of apps that enable users to check medication dosing, interactions, whether the drug it's covered by the patient's health plan, and more.
What the professionals say: Adam Tanase DC, says the Interactions Check function allows him to add every medication a patient is taking. "It then cross-references them for possible drug interactions and side-effects. It's my job to find and eliminate the cause of a patient's health problem. If the cause of your headaches or dizziness is not due to a spinal problem, and instead is due to the side effects of your medication, I think it's important to know this right away. Epocrates plays a supportive role in helping me help others."
Cost: Varies by product, $0 - $299
What it does: This quick reference to International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems codes (most commonly known by the abbreviation ICD) helps to classify diseases and a wide variety of signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances and external causes of injury or disease.
What the doctors say: "Health-care providers must frequently scramble to come up with ICD9 codes for unusual or complex diagnoses in order to bill appropriately. ICD9 Consult is an excellent solution for those moments when you don't have time to consult a thick book or spend time seaching online for the right code. It allows you to easily search through the different codes or browse by type of disorder (infections, circulatory, respiratory, etc.) or procedure," says Joshua Schwimmer, MD, FACP, FASN.
What it does: Let's obstetricians monitor patients' statuses, such as baby's heartbeat, remotely. Requires the AirStrip fetal software suite to be installed at the hospital.
What the professionals say: As a solo OB/Gyn in a rural area, Susan Corbett, MD often has nights full of triage and laboring patients. "At least with AirStrip OB, I can minimize unnecessary trips to the hospital and more importantly, respond quickly to situations that need my attention," she says. "Often times, I can provide intervention and orders to the labor staff thereby decreasing the lag time between fetal changes and effective intervention. Many times I recognize changes in the tracing before the nurses have consulted me."
What it does: The SonoAccess™ application is a direct link to SonoSite with resources such as videos that demonstrate techniques for specific scanning procedures, quick guides for reimbursement information, and more.
What the professionals say: Brian Gill, president of GPS Medical, an ultrasound sales and service company, reviewed SonoAccess in his blog. Regarding the videos, he wrote, "The videos are helpful, however, many of the documents are quite difficult to read on the iPhone. They're PDF files that are also available on SonoSite's Web site, and you can look into the SonoSite Virtual classroom. It's much easier to read the documents on a larger computer screen than pinching-and-scrolling on the iPhone."
What it does: By keeping track of patients—when and why they were seen—this app assures that any daily visit, consult, or procedure charge is accounted.
What the professionals say: Necessity was the mother of invention for Camil Sader, MD, FACS, a general and laparoscopic surgeon. Aggravated by the fact that he had to copy long lists of patients daily from the day prior's list, he used his insight on the iPhone's capabilities and hired a coder to produce Dr. Rounds. Now he can walk around the hospital and can check off patients right from his phone, he tells CBS12-TV, without having to rely on a bunch of paper lists.
What it does: Physicians can e-prescribe as well as view patient allergies and problems, lab results, medication history and potential drug interactions directly from the iPhone or iPod touch.
What the professionals say: Amos Johnson, M.D., points out, "Today, interactions are so important between drugs, safety factors with allergies and patient illness. Things such as renal failure and liver failure need to be collated and monitored and when I write a simple prescription or send a patient for a simple test, I have to be aware of those factors. With time being a critical factor, a solution such as Care360 Mobile that does all of these things for me consistently and accurately is an important part of the care process."
What it does: Doctors can review a patient's summary while speaking with the patient on the iPhone, quickly access prescription details—including favorites and full medication search—and send up-to-date patient summary information directly to emergency rooms.
What the professionals say: This app has transformed the way Dr. Larry Glazerman, assistant professor and Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, practices outside of the office —and makes it safer. "When I get a call from a patient at 3 a.m., I no longer have to guess who she is, what medications she's on and what problems she has because I have all the information at my fingertips. If I need to send her to the ER, I can send my notes to the ER physician. I can also check my schedule and sign off on tasks virtually anywhere, at any time," he says.
What it does: The basic package allows EMS personnel to record the critical interventions during a cardiac arrest. Full Code Pro records every critical intervention from CPR, defibrillation or securing an airway to venous access, drug administration and patient packaging, in an instantly accessible and easy-to-use log.
What the professionals say: The company's Web site explains that the app was created by paramedics in one of the nation's most aggressive EMS systems. "With Full Code Pro, the paramedics, EMT-Bs, nurses, and EMS personnel can focus on patient care, critical interventions and achieving positive outcomes without sacrificing proper documentation. The reports generated by a cardiac arrest are among the most closely scrutinized in the business."
Cost: $.99 - $1.99