As the time-worn cliché goes – an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But if I had to do a corny take on it, I would say that with medical reference apps installed on your iOS device, an Apple could help to do exactly the opposite. Talking to a doctor is one of the most unnerving experiences, a patient or a patient’s family has to endure. It is compounded by the lack of knowledge on how to go forward.
Thanks to medical reference websites and mobile applications, the chasm between medical jargon and layman’s understanding can be reduced. One of my former colleagues had said that WebMD should be among the seven websites every man (and woman) should be reading.
I say, that the free to use (but minimal ad-supported) iOS WebMD app should be an essential app you should be carrying 24×7.
For The Sake Of Better Health Decisions
Health is certainly wealth. But for that you have to take the right decision at the right time. With the complexities of the medical symptoms we encounter every day, you can’t afford to ignore something as benign as a consistent itch. It could be an allergy for all you know. When it comes to health, the road from harmless to harmful is a short one. So, cardinal rule number one is – be better informed.
The web is there always, but what you need is knowledge base on a device you carry always or can easily carry with you – a phone, a tablet, or even your iPod music player. WebMD is available for Phone, iPod touch, and iPad. They have an entire fleet of mobile apps that goes well with their excellent website. You don’t need to have an internet connection for all the reference information but using the Symptom Checker in greater detail or for checking up health centers or physicians based on your location, does need one.
An important note: WebMD is a decision support tool. It is not meant to replace a physician at all. WebMD’s role is to provide valuable health information and a few tools for managing your health.
The WebMD Kit
When you install WebMD for the first time, do read through their user agreement that’s presented front and center. WebMD anonymously does gather data, but it does so with your express permission as mentioned in the end-user agreement. You can sign-up to keep all your health information centralized in your account. For instance: your own personal list of health conditions or your prescriptions. It helps to have one-touch access to updated and timely information.
The Symptom Checker is an interactive body map that allows you to select a body part and drill down to a list of symptoms. It starts by asking you your age, gender, and pincode. You can pinch, zoom in, or spread out the map. A few steps down, you can see the screen with an overview of the condition, symptoms, and associated articles.
The Symptom Checker also uses a question-answer based format to arrive at your particular condition. It is for the purpose of pinpointing the exact condition, and its associated cure. Do remember, that a specific symptom can be due to many conditions…so, with this awareness it’s always warranted to consult a physician instead of attempting self-diagnosis.
With a free account, you can save your Conditions in custom lists and review them anytime. The Conditions screen also is for direct one-touch access to the entire reference. It is alphabetically listed, and you also use the search bar on top.
The Drugs & Treatment screen is similarly structured. As you can see from the screenshot, you can also search by Pill ID. What’s interesting for a layman is that WebMD gives you ways to search by Shape, Color, and Imprint (letters or numbers on your pill).
First Aid Information is always worth a quick tap when an emergency strikes. It lists not all, but probably the more common ones which a layman can handle prior to calling 911. Do note the caution to call 911 immediately.
One of the nicest features of the app – though I have no idea of its completeness – is the Local Health Listing screen. Type in your location and search for a physician, pharmacy, and hospital. Results can also be displayed on a map. You get the distance from your present location, and using Google Maps, you can let the app show you the way with guided directions. You can sort by name, city, and distance. You can add physician, hospital, and pharmacy details to your contacts with a tap.
And finally, if you want to save your medical condition, drugs, first aid topics, articles, and health support information, you have to log-in and create a WebMD account. This will be common with the website so your information stays in one place but multiple devices.
The Final Diagnosis
WebMD for iOS is a reference app – first and foremost. It is not encyclopedic, and a layman also shouldn’t suppose it to be, because the information will simply overwhelm him. To reiterate, it is not a substitute for a professional medical advice. Information is U.S. centric, so apart from medical conditions, rest of it will not be applicable for other countries. I liked the way the app has managed to keep the information to the bare essentials without pushing us into the healthcare maze. Too much of information sometimes isn’t a good thing. The First-Aid page could have done with illustrations (for instance, CPR), instead of linking to them; but that’s a small complaint. Ads are minimal and restricted to the bottom part of the screen.
Have you used WebMD on your iOS device (or even on your Android)? Tell us your diagnosis.
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