Empowering the patients to make better decision regarding their healthcare should be one of the most important tasks for every healthcare provider. Better information could lead to better health, but patients often don't have the access to the same information as medical providers.
iTriage app is one of the services trying to fill the void of patient resources by bringing the medical information to the mobile devices. Created by two emergency room physicians, Dr Peter Hudson and Dr Wayne Guerra, the iTriage app allows patients to check symptoms, find healthcare providers or facilities near their location, access the healthcare advice lines, and check information for a wide range of conditions, medications or procedures. The recommendations provided in the app are based on thousands of symptoms, health conditions and medical procedures.
However, while empowering patients this way is certainly convenient, it raises some questions as well; the most important of them being how the patients should use the iTriage app? Should they use it with or without consultations with their healthcare providers?
I expected to see some sort of visible disclaimer regarding this part, but couldn't find one. Instead, in About section, the iTriage app suggest users to use the app as the definite medical guideline by themselves. Consulting healthcare professionals isn't mentioned. Now, this raises not only further questions, but also our eyebrows. Putting the medical information in patient's hands could be dangerous if doctors are left out.
After opening the app, you'll have an option to create an account and have the app personalized. You'll also have an option to be taken through the tour that explains the app's main features and functionalities, i.e. how the symptom checker works, how to find right providers, how to access medical content, etc.
These main features are listed on the main screen and include symptoms, doctors, facilities, conditions, medications, procedures, MyiTriage (your personalized page if you created an account), Spotlight and News sections. If you swipe to the right you'd see few more features included in the app, like hotlines with emergency and advice contacts, survey about the app, education that links to Healthathand website and About section with basic information about the iTriage app. As you may see, the app indeed covers a plethora of useful information, allowing the patients to take the control over their health.
One of the cornerstones of iTriage app is Symptom checker, which is done in really nice way by featuring the interactive illustration of the human body (both man and woman). Patients can tap on body parts to summon the list of common and less common symptoms that affect that body part, which may vary for men and women. For example, if you tap on abdomen, you'll get the list of common and less common symptoms, from which vary for men and women.
You can also choose to see all symptoms listed alphabetically, instead of interactive bodies. There are small letter on the right that may help you with the navigation, but they're too small to be used conveniently. Instead, there's a search option built in the app that works well and fast, allowing you to find what you're looking for with a great accuracy.
Tapping on the symptom will open the list of all potential causes that in some cases can be refined, by adding the age, gender or any major symptom.
Condition page contains several expandable sections that provide more information, including description, symptoms, tests used for diagnosis, and treatment. The information provided here is brief, and in most cases doesn't go into much detail. For example, treatment only lists the commonly used medications, and links to the app's Medication category. The information, although brief, is reviewed and referenced by the authority organizations.
Conditions pages also contain images related to the condition, but lot of these are stock photos or too general, which depends on the condition. For example, abdominal trauma features images of abdominal surgery, an X-Ray of abdomen, and a female patient waiting for a MRI scan. There are also videos for each condition that link to YouTube and that are more relevant to the content.
Condition page also allows users to find immediate medical help near their location, or to call advice lines by their insurance providers. All information can be added to the personalized page or shared with friends or family.
Another great thing about the iTriage app is the use of phone's GPS and map to help you find physicians and facilities, including hospitals, ERs, urgent cares, or pharmacies near you. You'll get the list with the names of physicians or facilities along with the distance in miles. Tapping on any name will allow you to make a call or to get the map and directions. Facilities and doctors can be saved and accessed later via MyiTriage option, which requires registration with the app.
Beside Conditions category, the medical information is also provided in Medications and Procedures categories, which all feature the alphabetical list in the same way as the list of symptoms. They're also arranged in a similar way as Condition pages. Symptoms, conditions and medications categories are interlinked, and can be access via one or another.
Procedures are not linked with other three categories, but the information is offered in similar fashion, i.e. via expandable sections, with the addition of average procedure cost that comes from Aetna Life Insurance Company's Cost of Care Estimator. Some of the procedures still lack information on this part (for example bariatric surgery). Cost information also lacks detailed information about copay, additional bills, and other insurance plan info.
Overall, the user experience with the iTriage app was quite satisfying. The app is easy to use and navigate and the information comes up fast. The design is simple and intuitive, including decent amount of interactivity and multimedia. Localization works well for the U.S. and Canada, but not for other parts of the world, which is understandable, because the app mainly targets the audience in North America.
iTriage app is very useful tool that allows patients to access a number of healthcare resources, from symptom checker, physician or facility finder, to emergency and advice lines. While it's designed primarily to promote patient-centered healthcare, it can't ignore the advice of healthcare professionals, and that's the only way it should be used.
Benefit: The app is designed for patients, but it should be used with healthcare professional's advice only