Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is an umbrella term used to describe a group of intestinal disorders that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract.
The two most common diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the large intestine, while Crohn's disease can cause inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. However, Crohn's mostly affects the tail end of the small intestine.
Both diseases are chronic conditions with intermittent flare-ups, usually involving symptoms such as severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weight loss.
The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease may range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Patients are likely to have periods of active illness with episodic exacerbations of symptoms that can last for months followed by periods of remission.
Regardless of their disease course, the IBD has a significant impact on patient's health-related quality of life and can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.
Besides debilitating symptoms, inflammatory bowel disease can also increase a risk of colon cancer, as well as eye and joint problems. Patients also need to deal with many side effects from particular medications used to treat their IBD symptoms.
Self-management is an important aspect of living with a chronic disease like ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn's. It is important for IBD patients to keep track of a number of things, from symptoms and diet to medication and personal well-being.
A number of mobile apps have been developed for smartphones and tablets to help patients with IBD take control of their condition. Some of these apps help patients track and monitor symptoms while others remind them to take medication or help them manage stress.
GI Monitor we review today is one of those apps. It is a symptom tracker designed for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
GI Monitor allows patients to easily and accurately log symptoms, view correlations between symptoms, meals, and medications, and provide logged data to their physicians for optimal treatment.
The app was developed by WellApps, a company whose founder and CEO, Brett Shamosh was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 16. The difficulty to track his symptoms encouraged him to create the company and the GI Monitor app with the help of the GI Monitor Advisory Committee that consists of several gastroenterologists, as well as individuals with IBD.
GI Monitor app requires all new users to register the WellApps account before being able to use the app. This step also allows for real-time syncing between the app and an online database.
The app opens to the Home screen which features several sections, allowing patients to log their IBD symptoms, including bowel movements, stress and pain levels, meals, weight, custom symptoms, and more.
Users can swipe left to the second page containing additional sections that patients can use to log missed medications, view latest IBD news, list their doctors, or view help on how to use the app.
Besides Home page, there are also other pages listed as tabs at the top of the screen, including My Status, Medications, Socialize, and Settings.
To start adding entries into the logs, patients must first add the information in Settings, including their name, age, gender, race, DoB, medical history, and other relevant information, as well as other irrelevant information, such as religious affiliation of phone number (which are both optional).
Here, in Settings, users can also choose to connect GI Monitor app to Foursquare account to see how location affects their symptoms.
Users can also connect to Withings Health Mate app we also reviewed on SteadyHealth, which is now known as Nokia Health Mate, to track their weight and view how it affects their IBD symptoms.
After completing all required information, patients can start tracking their symptoms. The app is easy to use thanks to its colorful yet outdated interface.
To track bowel movements, users can set time (it can be set retroactively which is good), a form of their BM, an appearance of blood in their BM, and urgency. Users can additionally state if the BM woke them from their sleep and if there was a pain, which takes the users to pain level log.
Patients can log their pain and stress level in a similar manner by setting time and choosing from 0-10 scale, indicating pain levels from non-existing to highest.
Users can also log their meals by adding food and choosing one of three choices to indicate how difficult the food will be to digest.
Weight tracking can be done in the app or by connecting it with Withings account.
There is also a section called Photo Therapy where users can take photos with their device or add photos from a gallery. However, I'm not sure how this is supposed to help, because the explanation was left out.
My Status tab allows users to review their logs for a particular day, week, month, and so on. It is basically the app's custom Quality-of-Life scale, which uses factors like stool number, form, blood, and urgency levels as well as pain and stress levels to calculate the quality of life on a 1-10 scale.
Users can tap on View Chart button on the top right of the My Status to view a chart of symptom severity and overall status over time.
Unfortunately, during this review, I wasn't able to view generated chart. The screen was loading indefinitely so I had to shut down the app couple of times.
This loading screen also plagues Socialize page, which is supposed to connect IBD patients who use the GI Monitor app all over the world. Unfortunately, this part doesn't work, just like the Latest IBD News which shows the blank page.
The Medications section allows users to add medication they use from the list of drugs used to treat IBD symptoms, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, anti-diarrheal medications, and so on. I couldn't notice antibiotics or pain relievers on this list.
Patients can set the dosage, frequency, start and end date, and refill reminders. However, the app doesn't allow users to set reminders for medication use, which is a shame.
Overall, GI Monitor app is a useful IBD symptom tracker that could be a lot better. Many of its features don't work, at least on Android, so in its current state, the app seems unfinished and amateurish.
Benefit: The app is intended for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.