Core Medical Apps are Dan, Gus, Nate, and Ayal who all met while students at Tufts University School of Medicine. Currently, Gus and Dan are General Surgery and Urology residents, while Nate is an Emergency Medicine intern. Ayal is a fourth-year student.
Together, they developed Sublux app, a quick reference for a plain radiography designed to help medical students, residents, and experienced physicians interpret over 200 X-ray images of different body systems and common pathologies, and access evidence-based treatments.
Can you tell us the story behind your mobile app? Where did the idea for your app come from? What served as your inspiration for the app?
When I was a medical student doing my audition rotations through various emergency medicine departments, I realized that my X-ray interpretation skills were quite poor. As medical students, we're not taught much beyond the chest X-ray. So when an attending physician would ask me to read a wrist series, I'd be way out of my depth, and it would show. I realized there was an unmet need, and decided to make an app that would help medical students and residents in my position get more comfortable reading X-rays.
How did you build the content that's contained in the app? Does the information in your app come from evidence-based resources, such as scientific literature, peer-reviewed articles and case studies?
I sourced all my images from Radiopaedia, a free online radiology website. I decided to go with a stepwise approach towards injury identification since that was the best way to ensure that beginners didn't miss serious pathology. The book "Accident and Emergency Radiology" is a fantastic resource and provided much of my source material, along with the website OrthoBullets, the most comprehensive and widely-used orthopedics reference site out there.
What impact has your app had on clinical practice so far? We'd appreciate if you could share some stats on how frequently your app is used worldwide.
We released the app about 6 months ago, and since then it's grown just by word of mouth-- we haven't really done anything to publicize it. It's spread to the point that when I started residency last month, two of my co-interns recommended it to me. It's gotten about 4,000 downloads, which represents a large number of the people who would find it useful. Last year, for reference, 2,000 people matched into EM.
What are the tools and technologies used to build your mobile app (both cloud- and client-side)? Was it native or cross-platform development? Did you consider other technologies?
From a technological perspective, our apps are simple-- they are simply coded in Swift and Java and do not connect to the cloud or use APIs.
What were the main challenges you had to overcome when developing your app? Could you please single out the biggest technical challenges, product challenges, marketing challenges, and support challenges?
I had no previous coding experience, so I needed to teach myself everything. This was obviously challenging, but over two years I was able to learn enough so that when it came time to start work on Sublux I was able to make it look and behave the way that I wanted.
And it almost goes without saying that finding time to do all that while in med school was tough.
Could you single out the 3 biggest mistakes you made when developing the 'Sublux' app?
Not putting the UX front and center from the start. The first 4-5 iterations of the app were not intuitive, and we ended up totally redesigning the interface and experience based on extensive feedback from beta testers. By the time we got to the final product, however, the UX was one of the biggest things the app had going for it-- one of the reasons it's been so successful.
When it comes to medical apps, sooner or later the issue of data protection and security always comes up. How do you make sure that user data is secure?
Simple-- for this app, there is no user data. It's simply a reference tool.
What's next for your app? Are there any new features, functionalities, or upgrades planned for future updates?
We are adding in more extensive information on orthopedic management for many conditions, which should expand the usability of the app significantly for orthopedic residents and medical students interested in orthopedics.
We are excited about the technologies and what they might hold for the healthcare and the future of medicine. What do you think this technology-driven, human-centered future holds for mobile health and how do your app plan to contribute?
Core Medical Apps is all about empowering physicians and medical students to do the best thing for the patient as easily as possible. While there are dozens of high-quality textbooks out there, there is a dearth of point-of-care apps. We're trying to fill that void by putting information in the hands of practitioners when they need it.
Could you share some word of advice with other mobile app developers? What steps they should follow in order to make a successful app?
Don't try to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Create a solution for real pain points that exist for real people, and you'll have a market.