“To fully realize the benefits of mobile health, the apps need to get smarter,” says Dr. Stephen J. Schueler, an emergency physician who led the team that created Virtual Doctor, a new iPhone app that helps people decide how to react when they have symptoms. Virtual Doctor is representative of a small, but specialized group of intelligent apps, called decision-support applications. Virtual Doctor performs a critical decision-making process, called symptom triage. “Performing triage is not the same as making a diagnosis,” says Schueler. “The goals of triage are to determine a person’s risk for serious illness, to assess how sick he or she is, and to decide when to seek care. In contrast, making a diagnosis requires a doctor to find the cause in order to select the right treatment. Most triage is performed outside the health care system, where consumers must decide when and where to seek care by themselves, with no physician input.”
DSHI Systems has been chosen by the Veterans Health Administration to create a mobile triage solution for the emergency room. The idea for the touch-screen triage tablet came from a VA Employee Innovation Competition. The event generated over 6,500 ideas, but only 26 were slated for development and testing.