Sharecare's AskMD App Helps Users Store and Manage Their Symptoms and Health History

(Courtesy Sharecare, Inc.)

App Name: AskMD Available Platforms: iPhone and iPod Touch

Price: Free

What does this app do?: AskMD, developed by Sharecare, an online health and wellness platform founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Jeff Arnold, the former CEO of howstuffworks, helps users keep track of and manage their healthcare as well as identify what might be ailing them so they can make the most of their visits with a doctor.

Designed for iOS 7, the app lets users enter their symptoms by tapping through a list of questions, and explore possible causes by matching the information they enter with Sharecare's clinical knowledge management system.

To use the app, begin by entering a symptom, such as elbow pain. From there, the app prompts users to answer a comprehensive series of questions designed to best narrow down what might be causing the pain, such as when it began, how you would rate the pain, and any other symptoms you might be feeling such as "Tendency to bruise easily," "Flu-like symptoms," or "Nose-bleeds."

AskMD then churns through your answers, factoring in other ailments you may have, as well as any medications and supplements you might take, and then delivers a list of common causes and less common causes as well as the option to find and call nearby physicians.

Toni Pashley, VP of Product, says the goal of the app is to not only help people discover what may be bothering them in a given moment, but also to help people better manage and stay ahead of their own healthcare. The app works like a healthcare diary for individuals by providing patients with a tool to enter and store relevant information such as medications and insurance information as well as basic facts, like their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"We want it to be easy for people to be organized," Pashley said.

AskMD is free and available for the iPhone and iPod touch, but Pashley says Sharecare has plans to develop a version for Android.

The Hospital Corporation of America sponsored the launch of the app, and provides users access to its database of physicians affiliated with HCA's facilities depending on where a user is located.

In the future, Sharecare may use coupons targeted to a patient's specific ailments to help generate revenue. For example, if you take Advil for pain relief, the app may present you with deals at Walgreen's.

Is it easy to install?: Downloading and installing the app is a simple process. Once you install the app, AskMD prompts you to create an account. From there, you can begin to build your own health diary by entering basic information - information you can now easily store and access for the next doctor visit.

Should I try it?: AskMD proves a useful tool when it comes to storing and consolidating patient information. The app's smooth flat design coupled with its easy-to-use interface - users can enter most of their information by tapping a button - make AskMD an engaging solution. However, users should remain cautious when it comes to using the app for a clinical diagnosis. ABC's medical unit tested the app using variety of conditions, some emergency and some non-emergency. In many cases, the app asked important questions, ones that would likely come up in a screening with a physician, but cast too wide a net when it came to possible causes. In the example we used above, elbow pain, the app offered four possible causes including gout and septic arthritis, but failed to recommend tendonitis, a common enough cause for the symptoms we entered. In the end, the app gives users a useful way to collect and manage their information, but when it comes to diagnosing and managing your health, nothing replaces a visit with your doctor.

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