Physician’s Plus, a managed care organization in Wisconsin, has developed an app, MobileNurse, to help keep patients from making unnecessary emergency department visits. With the app, patients are able to enter symptoms they are experiencing and get advice about seeking medical treatment. Patients are prompted to call 911, go to their doctor or ER, call a doctor within 24 hours or care for the condition at home.
As a healthcare provider, I am always wary of computerized diagnostic tools. I frequently have patients come to me who have “googled” their symptoms. Patients often misdiagnose themselves with these tools and cause themselves undue concern. The google search for “swollen lymph nodes” brings up numerous differential diagnoses but I find that patients skip over the differential of “common cold” and immediately conclude they are suffering from leukemia. On the up-side, I do not find this to be the other way around. I have never had a patient look something up online and conclude they simply had a benign diagnosis which turned out to be a serious medical condition. Despite my misgivings, I decided to give MobileNurse a try.
I downloaded this app my self and was actually impressed. Although it only offers advice for a limited number of medical conditions, I found the information included in the app to be accurate and the advice to be sound. The app is user friendly, gives a quick overview of the medical condition, advice on how and when to seek treatment and lists of over-the-counter medications which may be helpful for the patient’s condition.
Despite my reservations about online medical treatment, I think this app can be a handy tool for patients. It errs on the side of caution provides quality information. I do not think electronic diagnostic tools like MobileNurse can replace the work we do as healthcare providers but they can act as a useful supplement.