Editor’s Note: Iltifat Husain is the founder and Editor-in-chief of iMedicalApps.com, a physician-operated technology review publication and is currently an Emergency Medicine resident physician at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine.
The significant adoption of smartphones among physicians has not only led to an explosion of medical apps aimed at healthcare providers, but it has also cultivated an emerging trend of health and wellness apps aimed at empowering patients.
While great innovation is happening in the health and wellness mobile ecosystem, it’s difﬁcult for patients and physicians to navigate through the large database of apps to
ﬁnd ones they can actually use. My experience reviewing health and medical apps as a writer, combined with my experiences in a high volume Emergency Department that sees a diverse patient population, has allowed me to get a unique sense of this space.
Looking back, I’ve come to realize that there are three apps in particular that I routinely prescribe to my patients, as they are not only meaningful to physicians, but truly empower patients (and their families) and help them better understand their treatment and what’s going on with their bodies.
These three apps help patients and their family members get a better understanding of the cancer treatment process, help women in pregnancy understand their baby’s development, and help children and adults learn how to manage their diabetes.
All three apps are backed by venerable organizations already trusted by millions of patients worldwide. And just to make it clear up front: I have no relationships, financial or personal, with the developers or companies of the applications mentioned.
Cancer.net, an oncologist-approved cancer information website from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), released an iOS app last year that brought their website’s functionality and much more to mobile form. When I reviewed the app last year, I was impressed with the unique mobile-specific features.
My favorite area of the app is the “questions and answers” section, which enables patients to store questions they can ask their oncologist and other physicians later. However, the most impressive part of the app is an area that suggests questions that cancer patients and family members should consider asking — empowering patients and family members to ask relevant questions.
The functionality is extended by enabling patients to store questions in voice format. This is a critical feature for cancer patients as many of them are undergoing chemotherapy that can make typing or ﬁnger manipulation difﬁcult due to neuropathy in their ﬁngers. Furthermore, it helps patients record their physician’s response accurately — so when patients are asked by family members “What did the doctor think?” — they can easily share the recording. Study after study shows patient recall after a physician visit is not optimal, and there is good evidence to suggest audio recordings, especially of oncology visits, are beneﬁcial to patients and their family members.
Other features that empower patients is an area where side effects of their medications can be meticulously stored and an area where patients can see various videos suggested by ASCO.
Available for iOS and Android is pending.
Carb Counting with Lenny is made by Medtronic, the goliath medical device company. The app is designed to help children learn about diabetes and to get a better understanding of carb counting. Those with diabetes or those with family members with diabetes know how crucial carbohydrate counting is. It is crucial for diabetics to be able to approximate how many carbohydrates they are consuming so they can titrate their medications effectively.
The app incorporates gamification into teaching, making the app playful and fun to use. The games show you all the basic food groups and enables patients to easily understand how various carbs can affect their blood sugar adversely.
Although this app is aimed at children, I have suggested it to adults patients as well. The app does a great job of getting patients to understand how many carbohydrates they are consuming, and how it can affect their blood sugar.
You can find it on iOS here.
Hello Baby Pregnancy Calendar is produced by Pampers, and was released just a few months after the introduction of the first iPad. The app allows expecting mothers to get a better idea of the various stages of their pregnancy and their baby’s development.
The app shows expectant mothers the different stages of their baby’s anatomy week by week. One of my favorite parts of this app is the great medical education delivered — such as explaining to patients when and why physicians would want to do an amniocentesis. These types of tips enable patients to be better prepared when they go for their prenatal check ups.
The app also included a parenthood video series, and even a quirky “Womb Translator” portion that enables you to hear what your baby is hearing while in your Womb. Frankly, I don’t know how scientifically accurate this portion is as various variables such as amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby would impact this, but it’s endearing and if it gets expectant mothers to learn more and be better prepared during pregnancy I’m all for it.
As smartphones become more ubiquitous, it’s critical that health care providers, as well as patients, get a better understanding of how to utilize these devices for improving overall patient care.
You can find it on the App Store here.
I have no conﬂicts of interest to disclose. I have no relationships, ﬁnancial or personal,
with the developers or companies of the applications mentioned.
This post does not establish, nor is it intended to establish, a patient physician relationship with anyone. It does not substitute for professional advice, and does not substitute for an in-person evaluation with your health care provider. It does not provide the definitive statement on the subject addressed. Before using these apps please consult with your physician or health care provider as to the apps validity and accuracy as this post is not intended to affirm the validity or accuracy of the apps in question.