“62,804 top doctors. No waiting room.” Sounds pretty interesting, huh? HealthTap has been around in a free form for several years, but I just recently heard about it on a tech segment of the local news. Via the HealthTap website, a healthcare consumer can enter a health topic and quickly access a list of patient questions with doctor-provided answers, as well as links to tips and topic information pages. For example, a search on multiple sclerosis (MS) brings back doctors’ answers to questions such as, Can I catch MS? If I have MS, how can I reduce the effects of an attack? What are the signs of MS?
The HealthTap app requires you to create a personal account. To “personalize your experience,” you are guided through a series of pages to provide information about yourself: gender, location, three health topics of interest to you, etc. After that you can:
- view a feed of targeted health information, much like a health-focused Facebook feed;
- search by condition, symptoms, doctors, medications, or procedures;
- enter a question, at which point you’re given the option to (a) (for a fee) consult a live doctor via video, phone, or chat, or (b) (for free) email a doctor anonymously if none of the provided links sufficiently answer your question; or
- find doctor-created checklists.
The fee-based features of HealthTap were launched just last month as HealthTap Prime, which gives users (for a $99/month fee) access to unlimited medical advice via live video conference with participating physicians.
HealthTap also markets heavily to physicians, highlighting numerous benefits for doctors to offer services through the site and app. In fact, there is a separate HealthTap for U.S. Doctors app that allows physicians to, as one reviewer put it, “help people in [their] spare time.”
It’s no doubt the website and app are slick and user-friendly and the convenience of being able to video conference with a physician at any moment is enticing. I believe this company is onto something exciting. However, I can’t help but feel a bit skeptical of the service. I saw several typos in my browsing of physician answers, so I question the quality control and review process of the information provided. (I couldn’t find a description of their editorial process.) On their Additional Information page, they do address one of my initial concerns about the service by pointing out that virtual consults with HealthTap Prime physicians should not replace regular visits to primary care doctors. Which makes sense: your primary doctor knows your history and has access to your health records. Personally, based on what I saw on their website and app, I’m not yet ready to take a $99/month plunge. But what do you think?
Contraception continues to be controversial politically it seems, judging from recent news. However, there are quieter revolutions in reproductive health occurring somewhat surprisingly in the field of natural family planning. The Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health recently announced the availability of a free app for the Two Day Method of natural family planning, which focuses on raising women’s awareness of their cervical secretions surrounding their most fertile periods. This simple, inexpensive method of family planning does not involve contraceptives except for the possible use of condoms during fertile days. It can be used by women with varying cycle lengths. It is not necessary for a woman to be able to distinguish between types and consistency of secretions, only to be alert to their existence during her cycle. (The instructions do provide information about those types of secretions that indicate infection, however.)
When used correctly the Two Day Method is 96% effective, with typical use it is around 86% effective. That means that no more than 5-14 per 100 women using this method will get pregnant if avoiding pregnancy is the goal. (It can also be used by couples hoping to conceive a child.) Although there are some obvious benefits to the Two Day Method, including its ease of use and the ability to avoid hormonal contraceptives or other types of contraception, there are some disadvantages as well. First, the woman has to remember to check her secretions regularly. She must also have a partner willing to abstain from sex during her fertile days or use condoms. The method by itself provides no protection against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
The new 2Day Method app is available for free download to iPhones at the App Store. The results of the clinical trial on the method at Georgetown University were first published in Fertility and Sterility in 20004.
I’ll admit it. When Apple first announced the iPad mini, I was skeptical. Why would anyone want one, since the iPhone and iPad did everything so well and the iPhone is so portable? Then I learned the mini fits in a doctor’s white coat pocket. And that the new mini has (almost) all the features of the iPad Air. So when offered the opportunity to upgrade from my iPad 2, I chose the new Mini with Retina Display and I could not be happier with it.
The size feels exactly right.
To learn specifics about the features of the new mini, start withone of these comprehensive reviews from my favorite sites:
Why I like the iPad mini
- It is small enough to carry in a large pocket or small purse, but has the functions I need to work productively as well as the apps for personal use that I also have on my phone
- I have a case with keyboard for when needed for writing and email
- Webpages open in the full site view, not the mobile view, so there is a full range of options for using them
The LHL Website in Both Views
Working with PDFS
Most people in academia need their tablet to work well with PDF files so they can easily find, read, annotate and store papers. The smaller size works very well for these tasks in part because of the sharpness of the retinal display. The tablet fits easily in my hand for reading or sits upright in its case on a desk. If the PDF print is tiny, a pinch magnifies the screen.
- From the LHL website, you can search in PubMed, CINAHL or Scopus to find articles. Many other UAB resources offer apps or mobile sites.
- There are many apps that store and open PDFs. I often use GoodReader because it has an excellent set of annotation tools.
Screenshot of an Annotated PDF on the Mini
- Most PDF apps allow you to upload the finished PDF to Dropbox, email it to yourself to save storage on your phone, or open it in another app, like Papers or EndNote. I use the EndNote app ($) because it syncs with my other computers. A recent upgrade added a robust set of annotation tools to EndNote as well.
Screenshot of an EndNote Library
Share your experience with using tablets for clinical care or research in the comments below.
In 1995 The Hot Zone was published, providing its many readers with not only a hair-raising account of lethal virus outbreaks, but also a glimpse into the work of epidemic investigators in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health agencies around the world. This real-time investigative epidemiology is exciting, dangerous and vital in preventing mortality from deadly outbreaks such as Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. These workers are, in military parlance, the “front lines” of disease prevention.
Like any front lines, however, an unfolding outbreak investigation is a chaotic process, prone to confusion and information gaps. A recent piece by Dr. Tom Friedan on FoxNews.com looked at the development of a mobile app for use by outbreak investigators which would provide real-time connection to a centralized databank of continually updated disease information even in low bandwidth areas. The developer is one of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) investigators, Illana Schafer. This new app is currently in use in disease outbreak investigations around the world and is part of a global investment in technology as key to the prevention of widespread plague.
In addition to this on-the-job technology for epidemiologists, the CDC is using technology to recruit and train new disease outbreak investigators – see their “Solve the Outbreak App,” which provides different scenarios to budding disease detectives to try to figure out the bug that’s causing the outbreak symptoms described. This app is freely available for download at http://www.cdc.gov/mobile/applications/sto/index.html.
Have you ridden the new Blazer Express? UAB has really upped the game for campus transportation with new buses and routes. The buses and shiny and new and beautifully branded for UAB but best thing about the new system in my opinion is the app they are using to communicate. TransLoc is an app and website that many transportation systems use to track their routes and buses. Once downloaded, in the app, you can choose to view stops or routes and get real time information on where your bus is and when you can expect it at your stop.
UAB map on the web
UAB map on my mobile
UAB routes on my mobile
The system is free, easy to use and updates on the fly. If you need to move around campus on a rainy cool morning like today, I recommend you use Blazer Express and TransLoc!
P.S. I’ll talk about TransLoc Rider in an upcoming post.
Most people have no idea how much data they use monthly on their cellphone until they get a dreaded overage message. I’m still on the unlimited data plan with Verizon, but soon it will be time to stop clinging to the past. To help me with my transition, I’ve been using an app called 3g Watchdog.
The app has helped me track how much data I’m actually using. You can set your quota limits and billing dates; for example, set a limit of 2G per month starting on the 18th and you can get a notification when you are at 75% of the quota. You can view daily, weekly or monthly usage and see how much time you have left before your monthly plan resets.
The icon in your notification bar will advise you of your status from a glance by changing from green to yellow to red. It will also send you notifications when you are getting close to your limit and it can even be set to auto disable your mobile data to prevent overage. 3G Watchdog Pro gives you many advanced features like exporting a CSV file of your usage, viewing your usage by application or even restricting apps. I’ve found that the basic functions of the free version are enough to give me a good handle on what I’m using. This app is only available on Google Play but other similar applications Onavo Count and My Data Manager are available on Itunes.