Making the right diagnosis is much easier for medical students and doctors if they're presented with the image of the condition or symptom. Some of them are visual learners, so studying images is the simplest way of adopting the medical knowledge.
However, many conditions can be identified visually, so using images could be essential to any healthcare professional despite of their learning preferences. The ability to make an instant diagnosis by recognition of visual indicators - for example recognizing the type of rash, how it spreads, etc. - could vastly improve patient care.
Different resources for reviewing medical images are available for iOS and Android devices. One of the most used among those resources is Figure1 app, an "Instagram for medical photos" that we reviewed on Steadyhealth. This app is made for medical professionals worldwide allowing them to access a huge database of medical images made and shared by other users, which could help them identify different clinical conditions.
Another app we review today is VisualDx. While it's not a social app like Figure1, VisualDx app has similar purpose, which is helping medical providers to make differential diagnoses of visually identifiable diseases based on patient-specific findings and images.
It is both decision support and clinical reference tool with the database containing around 30,000 images covering more than 1,000 pediatric and adult conditions.
Upon opening the app, users need to register an account before proceeding. The app requires a subscription, either individual or institutional, with two pricing options: "Essentials" for $19.99/month or $199.99/year, and the "Complete" package that costs $29.99/month or $299.99/year. However, the VisualDx app includes a 30-day free trial for all subscribers, with the option to cancel the subscription at any point during the trial.
After completing this part, you'd be taken to the simple screen featuring easy-to-use search field where you could enter symptom, medication or diagnosis, and a button that allows you to build a custom differential based on several dermatology and ENT/oral medicine chief complaints.
The search field provides auto-complete suggestions as you type. After typing the name of a symptom, medication, or condition, the user is taken to the next page where they can choose patients gender and age via intuitive slider, before starting workup.
After this step, the users are taken through the set of questions regarding additional findings that may help narrowing the possible diagnosis. For example, you'll be asked about patient appearance (if they appear ill), about associated symptoms (if there are any cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, neurologic, and other symptoms), about medical history, etc.
These additional questions, of course, depend on the symptom you've typed in the search field. For example for cough you'll be asked to check chest radiology findings (if any), or chest radiology distribution. For other conditions and symptoms you'll be asked about lab results, or type of skin lesions and their location on the body, and so on. These additional findings can also be added manually by typing them into the findings field.
After entering all the information, users are taken to the next screen with list of all diagnoses matching all or one of the findings. Naturally, diagnosis with most matches will be listed first.
Tap on any diagnosis will open a page with synopsis of the diagnosis, ICD-10 and SNOMED CT codes, things to look for when diagnosing, diagnostic and management pearls, differential diagnoses and potential pitfalls, recommendations for the best tests, therapy recommendations with medications, and references used, along with contributors.
Each diagnosis has a list of images placed at the top that can be also viewed separately. These images help providers visually confirm a diagnosis by comparing medical images to their patient's presentation.
Users can navigate through the content by scrolling or by tapping on Table of Content icon, which allows users to choose the sections much easier.
There's also "Information for Patients" button that allows users to print or email the information about particular diagnosis (with or without pictures) and share it with their patients at the point of care.
Some of the diagnosis will have a yellow warning sign beside the name, and after you've opened them you'd notice a red sign just below the images and title, warning you that these are emergencies requiring immediate attention.
This is good example how to treat possible emergencies, because I've encountered a lot of medical apps that don't treat them serious like they should. In VisualDx app, users can even check a box to show these emergency diagnoses first.
However, it's not all roses. Try to type chest pain as a main symptom, with hypertension, heart palpitations, and jaw and arm pain. You won't get a warning that you should call emergency, not even that it might be a heart attack. According to VisualDx app, my patient has Herpes zoster or Lyme disease.
Of course, no one with common sense would consult a mobile app when the taking care of the patient is matter of minutes and a priority. But even when I searched for other symptoms, such as cough or abdominal pain, I didn't get the accurate results. Instead of bronchitis or GI distress, I got systemic lupus erythematosus.
So, VisualDx app doesn't work for all conditions, but only for those presenting visual manifestations, usually on the skin. These include dermatologic diseases, as well as systemic and autoimmune diseases with dermatologic manifestations.
This however, doesn't make VisualDx bad app, just somewhat limited or wrongly advertised. It is still a great decision support and clinical reference tool if you need one for skin diseases, or diseases with dermatologic manifestations.
The app's intuitive interface makes it easy to use, and the huge image database helps providers visually confirm a diagnosis much easier. However, individual users may find a subscription options a bit too pricey.
Nevertheless, VisualDx app is on a good path of becoming one of the essential tools that every healthcare provider should have on their phones.
Benefit: Mostly primary care providers treating patients with skin diseases, or systemic and autoimmune diseases with dermatologic manifestations