Can an app save your life?

May 20 2014
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On a business trip in 2012, Scott Tooker woke at 2:30 a.m. with chest pain. Even though the pain quickly subsided, he called a nurse advice line. Their advice: visit a doctor in the morning. Moments later, the pain returned. Tooker remembered he recently downloaded the iTriage app on his smartphone.

In seconds, the app helped him find the nearest emergency room and gave this out-of-towner turn-by-turn directions to get there. Shortly after doctors hooked up an intravenous line in Tooker’s arm, his heart stopped. He had literally received care in the nick of time.

“This is an example where he only had a few minutes,” Wayne Guerra, M.D., co-founder of iTriage, a mobile health care firm and subsidiary of Aetna, said. “He should have called 911, but since the pains were not severe, he was reluctant. Our app found him the closest hospital, and he survived.” Yet even though mobile use is on the rise, not everyone has embraced the technology for their health needs.

  • Scott Tooker

According to a survey on mobile health by the Pew Research Center in 2012, 80 percent of cell phone owners send and receive text messages, but only 9 percent receive text updates or alerts related to health.

The key to connecting with consumers? Experts say it’s the ability to offer timely and relevant information. “Being relevant is a real challenge for many apps,” Dr. Guerra said. “For Scott, the iTriage app showed him the closest ER and made it easy for him to find that hospital.”