"iTriage helps people answer two very simple questions which are actually quite complex: What could be wrong and what should I do?"
Fred Ricles was running errands last spring when the vision in one of his eyes became blurry.
“It looked like somebody had splashed coffee all over my contact lens,’’ the Centennial man says.
Using iTriage, an iPhone application co-developed by emergency room physician Dr. Wayne Guerra (MBA ’07), Ricles typed in his symptoms and found that his condition was likely due to a vitreous detachment, which in most cases requires no treatment.
“It gave me peace of mind knowing what it was,’’ says Ricles, whose doctor confirmed the diagnosis.
The application, iTriage, is free, mobile and web-based, so the application allows users to look up symptoms, learn possible causes, and, if needed, get turn-by-turn directions to the nearest emergency room or health care facility.
“iTriage helps people answer two very simple questions which are actually quite complex: What could be wrong and what should I do?’’ Guerra says.
Guerra is chief medical officer of iTriage’s parent company, the Lakewood, Colo., based Healthagen.
Guerra says iTriage has been downloaded 2.3 million times on mobile smartphones since it was first introduced as an iPhone app in 2009. It is also available as an Android app and can be accessed on the web at www.itriagehealth.com.
“We have about 600,000 users a month,’’ Guerra says.
The medical (including mental health) content on iTriage is written by an in-house clinical team of physicians and condensed and paraphrased for use in the mobile environment, Guerra says. The application includes information on thousands of symptoms, diseases and medical procedures and a nationwide “white pages’’ directory of hospital emergency rooms, physicians, urgent cares, retail clinics, pharmacies and outpatient clinics. For a fee, hospitals can add more information including emergency room wait times and pre-registration for incoming patients.
“If you think you broke your ankle, you can pre-register on your way in and they’ll be waiting for you,’’ Guerra says.
The iTriage application is particularly helpful for people who are away from home when a health issue arises.
“When your child has just been hit with a soccer ball, vomits once, then seems OK, you really want some answers … You don’t really have time to get your computer out, or go back to the hotel or get home to check that out,” Guerra says.
He says iTriage is also expanding internationally; travelers to Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom and South Africa now have access to iTriage and its health care listings.
“We’re planning on including the top-20 traveling destinations,’’ Guerra says.
Guerra says the most common search on the iTriage site is a symptom search.
“Cough. Fever. Weird blotch on leg,’’ he says.
Users can look up tests, treatment, images, videos and medications. Through iTriage, users can connect with nurse call lines run by health plans. And the “Find Medical Help’’ button provides GPS directions to the nearest appropriate healthcare facility.
“It’s usable on the fly, in the moment,’’ says Ken Bacon, president and CEO of Adventist Hospital in Littleton, Colo. “It’s a huge advance as far as one place to find out medical information.’’
The application empowers patients by putting more healthcare information into their hands, Guerra says.
In some cases, iTriage has prompted people to seek lifesaving emergency room treatment for conditions such as appendicitis, Guerra says. In other cases, it helps people find an alternative to an emergency room for a less serious condition such as a sprained ankle.
“About 30–40 percent of emergency room visits across the U.S. are unnecessary,’’ Guerra says. “That means someone needs care, but they don’t need care at the level of an emergency department. We help people decide when it’s appropriate to go to an emergency department or an urgent care facility and direct them to the closest facility.”