In the previous article, we scored the top 4 specific applications for heart failure on a 40-point scale and we had our winner. But we couldn’t stop specialized applications for patients because there are some feature-rich mHealth solutions that can also help patients with heart failure manage their condition on a daily basis. Therefore, we immersed ourselves in the set of healthcare applications with relevant functions for HF self-management and chose 3 promising options. We then analyzed them according to the following scoring guidelines and found what they offer.
Each application can earn a maximum of 40 points. These points are divided into 4 categories, covering functionality, synchronization with devices and other applications, sharing capabilities, and patient-provider communication. This is how the points are distributed:
- Mandatory functionality: 20 points maximum
- HF-centered therapeutic education (5 maximum)
- Recording and analysis of critical vitals for HF (5 maximum)
- Medication tracking (5 maximum)
- Appointment scheduling (5 maximum)
- Smart sync: maximum 5 points
- Device sync (3 points)
- Application synchronization (2 points)
- Compartment – 5 points maximum
If so, what type of sharing is enabled:
- Automatic (3 points) and / or manual (2 points)
- Communication – 10 points maximum
If so, what type of communication is available:
- Text communication (2 points)
- Voice communication (3 points)
- Video communication (5 points)
Now, let’s look at the top 3 according to our score.
The app plans to cover Android in the future, but for now only Apple users can benefit from Symple. The strength of the application is in the analysis, it wants a patient to be as aware of the conditions as possible. In particular, Symple offers the following functionality:
- Interactive diary: the place where patients store thoughts, concerns, and factors that influence their well-being. In particular, the patient can record the things he does or experiences, such as yoga, a new diet, an important event, and more.
- Apple Health Sync: this synchronization allows patients to access data from the Health app, including logs of steps, sleep, nutrition, and activity. Because Health also enables integration with smart devices, a patient with HF can measure their vital needs and see trends in Symple.
- Trends in symptoms: patients can introduce any symptoms, such as headache, edema, or difficulty breathing, and monitor their recurrence, remembering that they do so daily or weekly if necessary. The absence of a particular symptom is also monitored to build a more accurate trend line.
- Medications: patients can track their medications by taking a photo of their current intake or recording them in free text. The app then creates graphs so the patient can see how the medications are affecting their symptoms.
- Doctor’s report: it is practically a notepad with an overview of the patient’s concerns. Data is entered into the journal report and symptoms (if labeled). The patient can also add them manually.
Final score: 14/40
Way out. Now yes, the question is obvious: how did the app with such a low score get into the top 3? Symple does not focus on any particular patient category and does not connect the patient with their provider, nor does it allow sharing. Practically, these are the reasons why the app scored so low: it was initially 12 points.
But it has some valuable perks and ideas that added two extra points and brought the app to that list. Being simple but very analytical, the app keeps the patient organized through reminders, medical report and interactive diary. It also provides the patient with a graphical representation of symptoms and factors and their correlation with medications over different time periods. This feature may identify an inappropriate medication or physical activity.
In addition, the patient can show the chart to their provider during the next appointment, using the doctor’s report to build an informative and useful conversation. In addition, thanks to synchronization with the Health app, Symple can also analyze vitals, if they have been added to Health.
It’s a long way to go, but still, the app can support patients with HF in their self-management goals. Virtually all this app needs is a solid connection with providers, and they are ready.
WebMD is an application designed to become the personal guide of the patient in healthcare. The application allows:
- Symptom tracker: the tool to identify the possible causes of the symptoms that arise.
- Health check: the patient can enter their weight, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol with HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.
- Application Sync: it integrates with other health applications (e.g., Apple’s Health) to ensure a better overview of patient well-being. It is possible to keep track of sleep, nutrition, additional vital elements and general activity.
- Help Finder: in case the patient introduces symptoms that may indicate severe or life-threatening conditions, the application will suggest visiting a nearby doctor or directing the patient to the nearest emergency room.
- Health tips: the patient can get a set of clues about his condition, heart failure, in our case. These indications cover the explanation of risks, the list of basic medications, medical procedures, complementary therapies, and self-care strategies. These strategies can include fluid control, low-salt diet, and more. In addition, the patient can also watch a series of short videos with self-management guidelines. In case of need, the patient can also call their doctor from the application.
- Quotes: writes a summary of the patient’s consultation from the health advice tab and highlights key information to discuss during the appointment.
- Drug Tracker: helps organize medications.
- Images and videos: the patient can upload images and videos to share with their doctor.
Final score: 22.5 / 40
Way out. While not a heart failure app, WebMD offers a set of features that can help a patient with HF follow the treatment plan, learn more about their condition, and contact their provider in case of need (or locate the nearest emergency room).
With an initial score of 19.5 due to the inability to create trends in vital signs and the incomplete set of critical vitals for HF, the app earned three more points for interactive symptom analysis, the help locator and resume writing. These features will help the patient prepare for their follow-ups, ask informed questions, and understand their current condition enough to seek timely help.
iTriage was created by a last name company, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Aetna. The app is designed by ER doctors and provides a substantial knowledge base about conditions and medications. This comprehensive basis was even approved by Harvard Medical School.
But let’s look at the functionality in detail:
- Search for attention: a tool to help patients find any facility, doctor or physician near or at a defined location. This tool can be used to seek medical assistance to address symptoms, treat a definite condition (IC in our case) or simply navigate to the nearest facility of your choice. Patients can also be referenced with estimated cost information to understand future expenses.
- Conditions: here, a patient with HF can choose their condition from the list and get a therapeutic education. In particular, the app highlights the description of the condition, related videos, most common symptoms, tests, and possible medications. Each medication can be added to the patient’s profile, explained according to the conditions treated, instructions for use, possible side effects, and instructions on what to do if a patient forgets to take that medication or overdose. It is important to note that the patient may become familiar with the list of symptoms that are critical for heart failure and require immediate medical attention (e.g., swelling in the abdomen area, difficulty breathing, and more).
- Pathway of symptoms: the patient can look for the symptoms separately simply by choosing an area of the male / female body in an image. If a selected symptom can be life-threatening, the app will notify the patient and suggest that they find an emergency room or call 911 directly by clicking the assigned button.
- Health profile: the patient can view their personal health records (PHR) stored in Microsoft HealthVault, ActiveHealth Management, and other portals that the patient can easily add to their iTriage profile. Because HealthVault supports synchronization with smart medical devices, it allows you to bring together all the specific vital elements of HF, such as blood pressure, pulse, weight, and temperature.
- Quotes: within this feature, the patient can view confirmed, unconfirmed, and previous visits, as well as add new appointments.
- Spotlight and news: a feed with educational materials with adjustable preferences.
- Hotlines: the patient can contact physician and nurse counseling lines, call 911, or access additional telephone helplines, such as domestic abuse, suicide, poison, and helplines. non-emergency police.
Final score: 24.5 / 40
Way out. This application has great potential. iTriage can help patients with heart failure (and not only) understand what to prepare for: what treatment, procedures, and symptoms can be expected in the future. With an initial score of 21.5, the app earned three more bonus points for valuable features. Specifically:
- A massive knowledge base approved by an authorized source,
- a series of telephone helplines to help a patient with various needs (especially if a condition leads to depression),
- a careful system of symptom analysis that will indicate the need to seek immediate medical attention.
However, iTriage does not have the ability to gather and analyze the vital elements within the application and share this information with the patient’s PCP or another member of the care team. Video chats would be great too.
Of course, these features extend the functionality of the app, which is probably not planned by the company. However, Aetna could drive integration, add visibility to providers within its network of health plans, and benefit greatly by offering its own self-management and readmission prevention tool.
Heart covers or life jackets
General mHealth applications are not specially created heart disease applications, period. But the level of elaboration of details and characteristics of these applications shows the general cross-bar that medical applications have achieved. The applications we have reviewed are attentive to vital signs and symptom trends. They allow for emergency calls, help patients structure their thoughts and questions before the next appointment, navigate to the nearest point of care, and warn of adverse effects. In short, they deliver control of a patient’s health to a patient.
In fact, this control is what health management is all about. What the revised applications need is a link to providers to close the care cycle and take a step forward towards telehealth at its best. After that, general applications will be able to compete with specific ones.