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7/2/2012
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Stacey Peterson
Stacey Peterson
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11 Super Mobile Medical Apps

Healthcare is in the middle of a mobile revolution. Doctors are adopting mobile apps that make them more effective, and patients are taking to ones that give them more control over their healthcare. Here are 11 apps that stand out from the crowd.




Mobile medical apps are popping up all over. Doctors are incorporating them into their practices to be more effective and efficient. Patients are using them to monitor specific aspects of their health, fill in gaps in their medical care, and take more responsibility for their well-being. Both doctors and patients are finding that mobile apps can provide a fast and efficient way to stay in touch and exchange information.

The mobile health technology market--including devices, applications, and services--is expected to exceed $8 billion by 2018, according to research company GlobalData. That's up from $500 million in 2010, a 44% compound annual growth rate. The rapid growth is being fueled by the increasing availability of a variety of healthcare applications.

Among the innovative mobile medical apps we found is one that lets doctors use interactive diagrams to show patients what's happening with their bodies, where procedures will be done, and exactly what will happen during different procedures. Alternatively, patients can use this app to get doctors to provide detailed visual answers to their questions.

Another app is making it possible for Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking patients to communicate with their non-Chinese-speaking doctors about specific medical problems. And another lets doctors send links to Web-based educational material to patient's smartphones so patients can read it when and where they want to.

Other mobile apps discussed here have less to do with doctor-patient interaction but are still changing the way health professionals and patients function. One has done away with the white cards that doctors carry around as they make their hospital and office rounds to record diagnoses and billing information. Instead, it has docs dictating the information and sending it to a cloud-based database where their office administrators can access it.

We found apps that allow healthcare consumers to comparison shop, track their asthma symptoms, and find their way around Mayo Clinic facilities. Another gives people a way to keep track of their immunizations.

In the end, the applications that are taking hold are the ones that provide needed services, and make doctors and patients more efficient. Take a look at the 11 apps featured below and see which ones will improve your practice or your health.


Visible Health's DrawMD is 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.

Users can select a pre-populated anatomical image or upload their own. They can sketch, stamp, and type directly on the image. The images and notes can be shared with patients during consultations and emailed to them.

But DrawMD diagrams aren't just for doctors to show patients what's going on with their bodies. Patients can also use the diagrams to get their doctors to answer their questions and illustrate where stents have been placed, for example, or where other procedures were done.

DrawMD's specialties include anesthesiology, critical care, cardiology, otolaryngology, female pelvic surgery, general and vascular surgery, ob/gyn, orthopedics, and urology.

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Visible Body's 3D Human Anatomy Atlas gives medical students, doctors, and patients an up-close look at all the systems of the human body. Available for Apple iPad, iPhone, and Google Android, 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.

A panel of physicians and anatomists reviews the anatomical content in the atlas for accuracy, says Visible Body. The current release includes content covered in undergraduate-level anatomy and physiology courses, according to the company.

Visible Body's iPad and Android apps are available for $29.99, and the iPhone app is $9.99.

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Medical misdiagnosis is an all-too-common nightmare. Isabel Healthcare's 10-year-old diagnosis decision-support system, now available as an iPhone, iPad, and iPod app, helps doctors on the go. The checklist system lets physicians enter symptoms and search a database of over 6,000 disease presentations. Information can be entered in regular text, and the results can be refined for age, gender, and travel history. Users pay a weekly ($2.99), monthly ($10.99), or annual ($119.99) subscription fee.

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When it comes to tracking vaccinations, most people assume their doctors have the list and will let them know what they need. But for kids entering college and older folks going back to school or traveling abroad, that list is important and may not be easily accessible, especially if they've seen several different doctors over the years.

To address this issue, students at Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, and the University of Texas School of Public Health have developed VaxNation, an online vaccination tracker. You enter information such as your birth date, vaccinations that you've had, and the dates of those immunizations, and VaxNation provides age-appropriate recommendations based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines.

Families can set up joint accounts, and accounts can be linked to Facebook and Twitter so that information about immunizations can be shared. The app helps locate clinics, provides email reminders when immunizations are needed, and offers educational information.

VaxNation won first prize in the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering's Go Viral to Improve Health collegiate challenge.

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EZ Derm's iPad-based electronic health record system lets dermatologists do what they need to do just by talking. Specifically designed for dermatology, the app incorporates Nuance Communications' cloud-based medical speech recognition technology so clinicians can dictate notes and other clinical information into the system and navigate within the app.

EZ Derm also provides physicians with anatomically accurate 3-D body maps on which they can make notes using touch technology. And it has integrated clinical decision-support that includes diagnosis information, workup algorithms, and suggested treatments.

Doctors can use the app's telephony, videoconferencing, and texting capabilities to communicate with colleagues, staff, and patients. The app is priced at $750 per month for the software-as-a-service version.

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A visit to a Mayo Clinic facility can be daunting. The Mayo Clinic Patient App provides patients with a range of tools to help them navigate the healthcare provider's medical campuses and processes.

This free iPhone and iPad app provides patients with secure access to their medical records, appointment schedules, and lab results. It provides maps of the medical facilities and directions to patients' appointment venues and other facilities.

The app also lets patients stay in touch with Mayo staff to make appointments and provides health management tips from Mayo's online resources, as well as a list of clinical trials that patients might be interested in.

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For physicians who need to communicate with Mandarin- or Cantonese-speaking patients, QxMD Software's MedSpeak Mandarin and Cantonese Translators could be lifesavers. The $9.99 iPhone apps provide more than 3,300 medical phrases, with English text and Mandarin or Cantonese translations in both written and audio formats. Nursing, rehabilitation, pharmacy, and medical topics are covered, and content can be sorted by category, topic, and symptom.

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Asthma patients have a new monitoring tool with iSonea's AsthmaSense mobile app. It lets patients track their breathing and manage their medications with a journal that records symptoms, medication history, and breathing function meter readings.

The home page (pictured) lets patients 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.

The app lets users set medication reminders, and turn them on and off. Patients receive alerts when the system determines that their asthma is "not well controlled" or "poorly controlled," based on National Institute of Health guidelines. It can also be used to call for emergency help.

AsthmaSense costs $3.99 and runs on Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices.

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With Iconic Data's SwiftPayMD, doctors making hospital rounds can forget about carrying around those little cards to record patient diagnoses and billing codes. This iPad and iPhone app lets them record the information and immediately submit it to their home offices from the hospital, using speech technology. Electronic submission reduces errors from illegible writing and problems with lost paper cards. It also speeds up the billing process.

The app, which costs $99 per month, provides a template for doctors to follow while dictating information. The audio file, transcript, and any relevant images (such as a photo of the patient's wristband) are encrypted and sent to a cloud-based HIPAA compliant database. The billing team at the doctor's home office gets an alert and can access the information via a Web browser.

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When Smart Mobile Technology Meets Good Science

Mobile Health Revolution: Doctors And Patients Disagree

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Accountable care is fast becoming a healthcare requirement, and patient education is an important part of any accountable care effort. Emmi Solutions has been providing patient engagement products for the last decade, and early this year it made all its Web-based products accessible on mobile devices. Physicians can recommend information for patients, and patients can access that information on their iPads, iPhones, and Android devices, explains Emmi Solutions CEO Devin Gross.

Physicians can use Emmi's products to follow up with patients after office visits, providing information on preventative or treatment options and help with medical decisions. Patients can view or read the material when and where they want to.

About 10% of people currently use Emmi products through mobile devices, Gross says, but he expects that number to increase.

RECOMMENDED READING:

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When Smart Mobile Technology Meets Good Science

Mobile Health Revolution: Doctors And Patients Disagree

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Castlight Health brings comparison shopping to the healthcare market. This healthcare shopping app, which is provided to consumers by employers and health insurers, incorporates information from a patient's healthcare plan and helps locate doctors and hospitals available under the plan. Castlight details out-of-pocket costs for each provider and gives information on the providers' specialty, board certifications, and ratings from other patients.

When the app provides hospital options, it includes data from patient discharge surveys and evidence-based clinical quality information. It also gives insight into available health plan benefits, where members stand in the plan, and advice on how to make more effective use of plan benefits. The app runs on Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android OS, and Blackberry.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Online Program Lets Docs "Prescribe" mHeath Apps

9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look

When Smart Mobile Technology Meets Good Science

Mobile Health Revolution: Doctors And Patients Disagree

Mobile Medical Apps Gold Rush Needs Scrutiny

10 Wearable Devices To Keep Patients Healthy

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