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Network World - Move over games and make room for medicine. A growing number of developers are tapping into a treasure trove of U.S. government healthcare data and coming up with innovative iPhone apps that help consumers make better medical decisions.
Here are three iPhone apps that point towards a future of patients having more medical data at their fingertips.
These smartphone applications were showcased at an event held this summer by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when it launched its Community Health Data Initiative. The initiative is releasing federal healthcare data with a standard application programming interface for developers.
Modeled after the National Weather Service, the Community Health Data Initiative aims to create a public/private partnership that encourages developers to take reams of federal healthcare data and turn it into useful applications for patients, doctors, hospitals and public health officials.
The latest mobile apps are using the iPhone as a platform for two-way communications between patients and doctors designed to improve the nation's overall healthcare system.
"We're seeing a very exciting explosion in the number of small, personal devices as well as sensor networks and mobile phone apps that are dedicated to structuring, collecting and aggregating quality healthcare data," says David Van Sickle, president and CEO of healthcare start-up Reciprocal Sciences, which has created an asthma-related iPhone app. "We're moving to more of a participatory community health data collection environment, where patients will be contributing into this data and not only benefitting from it."
Created by two emergency room physicians, iTriage http://www.itriagehealth.com/ is a free app for iPhones, Android, Blackberry and other Web-enabled devices. It provides patients with information about their symptoms and gives them advice about seeking medical attention for these symptoms. It also provides a list of nearby medical facilities including emergency rooms, hospitals, urgent care centers and doctors offices.
iTriage has more than 1 million providers of healthcare listed in the application, and it has attracted tens of thousands of users. Like white page listings, iTriage makes money be selling premier listings to hospitals, pharmacies and doctors offices.
"If you're on vacation in New York, and you think you've got strep throat, iTriage will help you figure out what you might
have and whether you need to go to an emergency room, and if you do where it is based on your location," explains Jonathan
White, vice president of sales and business development at Healthagen, a start-up that created iTriage.
The goal of iTriage is to help consumers make appropriate and cost-effective decisions about when and where to seek medical attention.
"If we can help consumers -- no matter whether they have private insurance or public insurance -- by not having them default to the emergency room, then we can save the whole healthcare system money and make the system more efficient," White says.