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1/8/2013
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10 Mobile Health Apps From Uncle Sam

New mobile apps from the Department of Health and Human Services, for consumers and doctors alike, let you search medical literature, locate health centers, fight drug abuse and much more.




Will 2013 be the year of the mobile app? Pundits seem to think so, and the prediction holds true for healthcare professionals and consumers alike. Although developers have come up with several apps to help clinicians diagnose and manage disease, the use of medical apps among consumers is set to take center stage, especially in light of new patient engagement requirements that are part of the government's Meaningful Use Stage 2 program.

With apps like Novo Nordisk's HemaGo already on the market, patients are finding it easier to take control of their care. Included in the list of apps sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are similar tools, such as Health Hotlines, which acts as a directory of almost 9,000 organizations focusing on diseases, disorders, mental health and substance abuse, along with their toll-free phone numbers; and NCI QuitPal, designed to help users stop smoking.

On the physician side of the equation, a recent HIMSS survey sheds light on doctors' attitudes toward mobile usage in daily practice. Nearly half of the health IT professionals surveyed believe mobile technology will "substantially" affect healthcare delivery in the years ahead, while 16% of respondents said it will "dramatically" change the future of healthcare delivery.

Physicians use mobile apps in two main areas: viewing patient information and looking up medical information or other professional health-related information. The HHS' list includes apps that fall into these categories, such as PubMed, which allows users to search a huge database of biomedical literature; ask questions; and read abstracts of articles.

CDC Field Triage, on the other hand, is an app that tests users' knowledge of injury response. Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) helps first responders identify hazardous substances and get containment advice. Radiation Emergency Medical Management (REMM) provides healthcare professionals with useful tips when diagnosing radiation injuries that could occur after events such as dirty bombs or nuclear disasters.

Click through to see more HSS-sponsored apps that can help your clinicians, and their patients, make better health-related decisions.


HHS designed the CDC iPad app as a way for users to quickly access health information. The app includes popular medical journals and access to social media features that coincide with important health concerns and events that occur throughout the year. Additionally, users can listen to and view CDC podcasts on their iPad, and they can view both press releases from the CDC newsroom and health images available in the app's image library. There's even a "disease of the week" feature. In addition to being available in iTunes, the app is also available for Android and Windows 8 devices.

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The CDC Field Triage app is an educational tool for EMS professionals and those teaching injury response. The app uses descriptions of scenarios to test knowledge and reasoning skills. It provides easily accessible links to the CDC's Field Triage website, as well as downloadable materials. The app also delivers the latest information on the CDC's Injury Center's field triage initiative and research. The app is designed for both the iPhone and the iPad and is available for download in the ITunes app store.

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Oxycodone abuse has received a lot of attention in the press and has reached near epidemic proportions in the U.S. This treatment locator app, developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), addresses the problem. It gives patients, family members and professionals access to reliable information on nearby mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities, including those that provide specialized treatment for patients dealing with opioid drugs. Users have access to four different treatment locator databases: The Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator, the Mental Health Services Locator, the Buprenorphine Physician and Treatment Program Locator, and the Opioid Treatment Program Directory. The app also lets users search for treatment centers within a specific radius, bookmark information for retrieval later on, and copy and send information using email or text messaging. The app is available for free from iTunes.

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The PubMed app, developed by the National Library of Medicine and available on the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android, offers several ways to search the free PubMed archive of more than 22 million references to biomedical literature from bioscience journals and online books. Users can ask general questions, search for keywords in specific fields and read abstracts of articles. The iOS version lets users search in 13 different languages. There's also a function called the PICO search, which stands for results based on patients, interventions, comparisons or outcomes. PICO is available on the main screen of the PubMed app and uses a fill-in-the-blank and menu format. Users also have the option of providing feedback through this feature, with a feedback link included at the bottom of the search page. PubMed is free from iTunes.

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality designed the Electronic Preventive Services Selector (ePSS) app to help primary care doctors identify preventive services for their patients. It's available on multiple platforms, including Android, iPhone, Blackberry and iPad. The app can be used to find U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for patients based on specific characteristics, such as age, sex and selected behavioral risk factors. The app lets users bookmark recommendations or topics for later viewing, and there's a feature called ePSS Recommendations RX, which lets users print or email patient-specific customized recommendations. The app is available for download from iTunes.

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Health Hotlines is a community service mobile app created by the National Library of Medicine to help the public locate health information. The app acts as a directory of nearly 9,000 organizations and includes toll-free telephone numbers. Subject areas include AIDS, cancer, and other diseases and disorders; as well as maternal and child health, aging, substance abuse, disabilities and mental health. Organizations included in the app's directory are separated into categories including government agencies, information and referral centers, professional societies, support groups and voluntary associations. The app is available for free at iTunes.

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Find a Health Center, an app by the HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration, lets users instantly locate nearby federally funded health centers by entering a zip code. The app uses mapping software in smartphones to locate the centers, which tend to be in most cities and in many rural areas. Consumers also can choose how far away they are willing to travel to reach a health center and tailor results to their preferences. The app is available for the iPhone and Android and is available as a free download in iTunes.

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NCI QuitPal, created by the National Cancer Institute, is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. The app helps users quit smoking by offering proven strategies. It includes a calendar to set a quit date, financial goals by date, and reminders; the ability to track daily smoking habits with a log; and graphic features that track the money saved and the number of packs users haven't smoked since using the app. The app also provides health milestone alerts and craving tips, as well as Facebook and Twitter integration. With the video diary feature, users can even receive personalized video messages from friends and family. The app is available as a free download in iTunes.

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The Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) app, developed by the National Library of Medicine for the iPhone and Android, is designed to help first responders who must deal with hazardous materials. The app provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including identification help, physical characteristics, health information, containment advice, suppression advice and treatment. The app is available for download as a standalone application on Microsoft Windows PCs as well as on Apple devices, Windows mobile devices and Blackberry devices. There's also a Web browser version available, WebWISER, which supports both desktop PC and smartphone and Blackberry browsers. This gives mobile users access to the full standalone application. The app is available for download on the WISER site.

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The Mobile Radiation Emergency Medical Management (REMM) app, designed by the National Library of Medicine and the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nicole Lurie, M.D., helps doctors and others treat radiation injuries. The app runs on Android, iPhone, Blackberry and various other devices. Information covers injuries patients might sustain after a dirty bomb or nuclear attack. According to the HHS, the app's recommendations are understandable enough to be useful to those without formal radiation medicine training. Users can download information in advance so it's accessible even if cell phone networks are down. The app is available as a free download in iTunes.

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