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Innovation

Health app guides patients from symptoms to treatment

iTriage is a smartphone app that links patients with just about every step in the health care process -- from a symptom checker to average treatment costs to hospital ER wait times.
Written by Christina Hernandez Sherwood, Contributing Writer

Described by its creators as "the largest mobile technology focused on connecting people to health care," iTriage is a smart phone app that links patients with just about every step in the health care process -- from a symptom checker to average treatment costs to hospital ER wait times.

I spoke recently with Dr. Peter Hudson, co-founder of iTriage developer Healthagen and an emergency room physician in Denver, about the health app that's getting millions of views every month.

How is iTriage different from other health apps?

iTriage was developed by doctors to help consumers who we'd seen struggle with health care decisions over the years. It is designed to answer two questions in a mobile environment:

  1. What could be causing my medical problem? ([The app has] all the clinical content that's required to do a self assessment.)
  2. Where should I go?

We married the two together in a GPS-based environment through the phone. It has every provider in the country. There's nobody doing what we're doing: the connection of taking somebody through from a raw symptom all the way to the right provider -- and they can make that decision based on cost or location or accessibility.

What are some of the app's other features?

In general, health care suffers from an extreme lack of transparency -- transparency for the things that really matter to people. Who is open? How much does it cost? Do they take my insurance? We've integrated cost data with our partner Healthcare Blue Book. We've integrated quality data with our partner HealthGrades. We've integrated ER wait time and hospital-specific urgent care and physician-specific data with our featured listing product that allows providers to showcase what they do well. We obviously leveraged all the different mobile platforms and web-based platforms to identify where you are and help guide you to that place, help you make a phone call, help you map it and get directions. We're taking some of that guesswork and the things you don't want to be thinking about when you're ill or hurt out of the equation.

Talk about what's going on in Denver, where patients can use the app to actually pre-register for hospital visits.

It gives the ability to the consumer to share their data with the hospital, letting them know they're on their way. In an extreme example, if you're a hemophiliac who is bleeding, that matters to the ER doctor. If they think they broke their arm and the orthopedic surgeon is about to leave the ER and go to another hospital, that would be great data to have.

From a more mundane standpoint, people have to show up in the ER and fill out forms before a record is even created. Sometimes they have to wait for triage first and then be registered and it's just a cumbersome entry process. We want to make it easier, so the mom who is worried about her vomiting child or the college student with abdominal pain after infirmary hours are up can ease their entry into emergency department or urgent care by sending their data.

Would the patient have to already have their health info connected to the app?

The health record we have available is Google Health and we'll be coming out with a few others shortly. We're a viewer into that data set. If the doctor's office sends data to it or the hospital sends data to it, if the patient has updated their record in that service, they could view, access and share that information at the point of care.

That certainly could make a big difference to how that person is cared for. As an ER doctor, not having the right information accounted for all sorts of inefficiencies, delay of care, inappropriate care, because you didn't know somebody was allergic to a medicine or had already been on a certain medication or had been treated for the same problem. Having that data accessible and coming from the patient is a real innovation.

Is the Denver pre-registration program going to expand to other cities?

There are another 50-plus locations signed up already.

The app is free to download. How is it funded?

Providers pay to share their data and information and be part of this premier listing product, which allows them to share more data than a basic listing. We never keep anybody out. We have an exhaustive database of medical providers around the country. That is something we will always have. But we feel consumers would benefit from knowing where a doctor went to school, what their hours of operation are, if a hospital is a stroke center, if they're a trauma center. We provide that messaging ability for the facility or provider.

The product lets the consumer know there is data about the facility when they find it in our GPS navigation. They can also pipe live ER wait times or urgent care wait times into the system, so the consumer looking at different options will know what the wait might be in one place versus another.

What's next for the app?

2011 is going to be about taking things to the next level with our hospital and provider customers for much more of an integrated solution for the consumer -- taking some of that hassle and inefficiency out of how they engage with the hospital. It will be about improving the technology so it's more personalized and offers more of a repository for the user, so they have one source with them at all times that could be used in an emergency, with a new doctor or to search more efficiently about issues that come up.

Could the patient data be used for studies or research?

There are a lot of options. It's all de-identified. There's no connection to any user. In a de-identified format, I think it's interesting because there's nothing like it out there yet.

Image, top: iTriage home screen

Photo, bottom: Dr. Peter Hudson

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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