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Sharecare’s brand new AskMD app just what the patient ordered

by Brad Spirrison

Personalized medicine is not restricted to genetic analysis and customized drug programs. Touchscreen devices can also deliver personal advice to anyone in need of or just considering medical treatment.

Although there are hundreds (if not thousands) of titles available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play that claim to do everything from clearing acne to relieving headaches, most of them are more pseudo than science. So it’s great when we come across mainstream, general interest medical applications that can legitimately help to ease our pain.

Launched today, AskMD is just want the doctor ordered. Available at least initially on iOS devices and powered by online health and wellness platform Sharecare, AskMD helps users better understand what ails them. If necessary, it will then point users to the appropriate doctors and other healthcare options in their area.

The ease of use and interface of AskMD will appeal to casual users and hypochondriacs alike. Upon login, users are greeted by name - “Hello Brad! What seems to be the problem” - and then prompted to enter a symptom via text or voice (with speed recognition technology provided by Nuance). From there, users are asked a series of questions about the symptoms, their overall condition, any medications they are taking and other factors.

The personalized questionnaire is comprehension while not overwhelming. Upon completion, the user is provided with a list of possible ailments and well as suggested specialists in their area they should potentially consult. The app also can handle logistical information like setting up an appointment, notifying friends and contacts of a condition, and verifying insurance information. It will also alert you if symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room.

Proven track record

The biggest variable to consider when assessing any health and medical application is that the legitimacy and expertise of its developer. AskMD developer Sharecare was started by WebMD co-founder Jeff Arnold, and physician/talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz. The app and Sharecare site harnesses the expertise of more than 250 physician “HealthMakers” for its recommendations.

Free to download, AskMD is subsidized via a sponsorship from the Healthcare Corporation of America (HCA), which has more than 250 medical facilities in 20 states across the country. In areas where an HCA hospital or surgery center is available, those listings are highlighted among other local recommendations. Sponsored listings, the company notes, will be removed in the case of an emergency.

“We want to be very careful and not direct patients just to somebody is paying us,” said Dr. Darria Gillespie, EVP of Clinical Strategy. “If something is very critical, we won’t send you to HCA but to whatever facility is closest.”

Passed the eye test

While the initial experience with AskMD was excellent, the true value of this application will reveal itself over time. It will be interesting to track how the app records and understands a given user’s health history over time.

As well, eventually it would be nice if AskMD and other apps like it could, with user permission and privacy safeguards, tap into one’s official medical history.

“As we iterate, those are the things we’re looking for,” said Toni Pashley, VP of Product.

In the meantime, if you feel a bug coming on or for whatever reason are trying to identify what ails you, give AskMD a spin and let us know what you think.