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iTriage provides mobile health advice with style


As the clock ticks down on World Health Day, there's an app that we should tell you about: the free iTriage 2.0 for iPhone (now also available for Android, and with a version coming soon for iPad). It's a provider locator, a symptom and disease database, and more.

The iTriage story is intriguing enough; the app was created by Dr. Peter Hudson and Dr. Wayne Guerra, practicing emergency physicians who realized that patients and healthcare consumers were facing information deficits at the moments when they most needed clear and accurate guidance around symptoms, conditions and available care facilities. Patients might have to make several calls to different providers -- a PCP, a specialist, and an ER or urgent care location -- to identify the best pathway of care.

Hudson & Guerra's approach to reducing this inefficiency was to break down the complexity of more traditional health resource tools and give users several pathways into the massive taxonomy of medical information. With iTriage, the app starts from the most urgent possibilities (the "Call 911" button). It then works its way down through finding immediate care (ER, specialists, etc.), locating a physician, looking up symptoms and conditions, and an exhaustive library of procedure information (including medical web searches, images & video, and eventually average cost details).

Beyond the informational bounty of the app, there's a separate layer that combines location awareness and a connection to the hospital systems for certain areas (mostly HCA hospitals in Colorado and Florida for now, but Hudson says the coverage areas are expanding). Hospitals that partner with iTriage's parent company can choose to list additional information, like ER waiting times or areas of excellence, within the app.

You can easily search for your closest physicians or hospitals based on your GPS location, and get turn-by-turn directions to the facility you want. If you're in the right part of the US, the back-end intelligence of the hospital interconnects will let the iTriage app tell you about the published ER waiting times -- so you could even ask the paramedics to take you to the fastest care option. For business travelers or tourists, the ability to find local care or to contact a nurse advisory line could make the difference between quick, effective treatment and a frustrating search for the right doctor or hospital.

iTriage's site has an extensive collection of testimonials from users who found that the app helped them out when they needed it most. In my testing, it worked quite well, correctly identifying the closest pharmacies and hospitals, and glitches from the 1.x version have largely been ironed out. The UI is not particularly snazzy, but it's workable.

The main area where there's still some work to do is in the provider information section, where the detail results are handled as links to the website -- there's little or no iPhone optimization on those pages, and although they aren't under iTriage's control it would be helpful to find a more graceful way of showing that content. For some bizarre reason, the app is rated 17+ (for "Frequent/Intense Suggestive Content or Themes"?) -- I hope that gets changed, at least in terms of the description. Maybe the App Store needs a flag saying "This app is designed for adult use only, but does not contain any objectionable content other than medical facts." Granted, some of the procedure pictures and video are not for the squeamish, but that hardly characterizes the bulk of the app.

If you want to become a more informed healthcare consumer, or you just like the idea of having thousands of bits of medical info at your fingertips, check out iTriage. It's free, but under the right circumstances it could also be priceless.

Two other healthcare tools worthy of mention on this occasion: the $4.99 I Need A Doctor focuses on physician listings representing the 'top docs' as rated by patients and peers. The challenge of informing & educating patients as they enter the hospital is being met at St. Luke's in Twin Falls, Idaho with the help of JLog Medical, a Unity Media product for the iPad that delivers 'journey logs' detailing procedures, process and expectations in video form.

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