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Physicians Using an iPhone Application to Triage Their Patients

Posted Oct 19 2009 10:04pm
John Moore, who blogs over at Chilmark Research has discovered an iPhone application that reinforces my belief that smartphones may soon rival the stethoscope as an essential healthcare delivery tool (see: iTriage: A Business Model Gaining Traction ). iTriage assists physicians in referring their office patients to regional hospital emergency rooms when necessary. I have posted previous notes about the myriad healthcare applications that can potentially be deployed on smartphones and this is certainly a good example of the potential of these devices. Below is an excerpt from his note:
iTriage is a slick iPhone app....Since its launch in April 2009, iTriage has maintained an enviable position as one of the top downloaded apps in the iPhone AppStore, currently in the top 10% of all apps downloaded....The parent company’s (Healthagen) business model is to solicit providers, mostly large integrated delivery networks (IDNs) to become premier sponsors who pay an annual subscription fee...to Healthagen to have their facility listed along with some brief marketing content, including the ability to upload videos, as to why one would want to go to their facility (typically ER) versus others. Thus, Healthagen is tapping into the marketing budgets of IDNs....On October 5th, HCA announced that they would become a premier sponsor as well for their facilities in South Florida.  What is particularly cool about this announcement is that in addition to the standard promotional marketing content that one may find in iTriage on a given HCA facility, HCA will also be providing real-time information on expected wait-times in ER, right there in the palm of your hand on your iPhone and in a recent upgrade of the software, a Blackberry as well.   (In November, they’ll release versions for Android and PalmPre.) This is all part of a larger push by HCA, which includes posting wait-times on billboards in this region to drive consumers seeking medical attention to their facilities as a significant percentage of those admitted to ER wind up being admitted for more extensive care.

 I am not surprised that the executives at HCA immediately understood the value of iTriage for their hospitals. What a clever way to market their emergency departments to community physicians! Adding expected wait-times will provide added valuable information for healthcare consumers who download the application. I pointed out in a previous note how emergency departments are an important portal for inpatient admissions to hospitals (see: Hospital Admission of Patients with Chronic Disease from the Emergency Department ). Here is a quote from that note:

In 2005-2006, hospital admissions through EDs accounted for approximately 60% of acute care hospitalizations in Canada (excluding hospitalizations in Quebec and those among women admitted for childbirth and infants born in hospital). These patients accounted for 65% of in-patient days, 11% of which were alternate level of care (ALC) days.

We have only scratched the surface of smartphone applications that are directed to both physicians and healthcare consumers. For example, it would be relatively easy to adapt content currently on the web concerning the interpretation of lab tests for smartphones (see: The Mobile Web and the Future of eHealth ). Here is a quote from this blog note:

...[I]t's now time, in my opinion, to begin to adapt [the content of] consumer-oriented web sites about the significance and interpretation of lab tests to the mobile web. One good example of such a site is Lab Tests Online. Such modification would allow, for example, patients who have just completed a physician visit to use their cell phones to query [their smartphones to] obtain a better understanding of their test results.

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