Not so long ago, the prospect of having kids was a distant thought. Sort of like having to open a retirement account, pay taxes, and go to a Crate & Barrel – I knew some day it would happen, but it seemed to be so far in the future that it almost seemed unreal. Now, as I start checking things off of that list, the idea of raising children has become a slightly more anxiety provoking thought than before. And judging by the parents I met back during my pediatrics rotations, this anxiety never really goes away. Rather, it changes. And particularly for the first-time parents I met, a big part of that was worry about the health of their child – a fear that a cough, rash, insect bit, or vague pain could turn out to be something more.
So it is no surprise that an app like KidsDoc exists. Basically, this app is designed to help parents manage some of the most common health situations that come up with children. The app itself covers everything from life-threatening emergencies to common, benign symptoms. Fortunately, this app is developed by reliable sources, specifically a group of pediatricians at the University of Colorado. After having spent some time using this app, its quite clear that the app is designed with the parent in mind, providing clear, concise advice that is intended to complement a strong parent-pediatrician relationship. Its a fantastic app that every parent would benefit from having – here’s why.
The home screen offers several ways to access the app content – an alphabetical index, keyword search, body area search, and a recently viewed list. The interface is intuitive and should make it quite easy for parents to access content, including those who are less technologically adept. For example, a focal pain lends itself well to the body area search whereas a more general complaint like a bee sting lends itself well to either alphabetical or keyword search.
Each topic is structured essentially the same with four categories – Definition, When to Call, Care Advice, and Summary. In the When to Call section, symptoms are grouped by the acuity of care they warrant – from whether to call 911 to just getting the next available pediatrician appointment. For example, for a bee sting, parents are advised to call 911 for any sign of respiratory compromise, described in easy to identify symptoms like wheezing, hoarseness, drooling, and so on. Interestingly, there is no “manage at home” category – the lowest acuity for any symptom seems to be to call the pediatrician during regular business hours. I imagine this is for liability reasons, which is a topic for another day.
The care advice section provides tips on managing the symptoms at home. For our bee sting example, it gives tips on local management of the sting. Similarly, other topics have pretty sensible advice for managing everything from abdominal pain to an eye injury. Of note, the asthma topic reminds parents to follow their child’s asthma care plan – a document that literally outlines a step-by-step plan for managing asthma flairs which has been recommended by groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics. This highlights another strength of the app, which is that it seems to integrate evidence-based interventions into its Care Advice.
Their are several areas of potential improvement in the app. First, in the When to Call section, tapping on any symptom will start to call either 911 or the pediatrician based on the symptom. While that makes sense, its kind of annoying when you’re trying to review the symptoms on the list. And when you tap on a symptom, it is added to the Summary tab which then makes a recommendation on who should be called and has a function to email associated Care Advice and selected symptoms. It seems to me to be more intuitive that the option to dial the appropriate healthcare provider be moved to just that Summary section. Additionally, a function to find a pediatrician or pediatric urgent care/ER would be nice to have in an app like this.
Other nice features of the app are located along the bottom navigation bar, where the pediatrician’s information can be loaded. Also, children’s doses of common OTC medications are included. After seeing just one child with liver disease from an accidental Tylenol overdose, the utility of this information becomes painfully clear.
KidsDoc is a fantastic app. It provides a lot of great, sensible information regarding common situations that parents face. In addition, its just a fun, well designed app – it thereby avoids the fatal flaw of many other medical apps that are packed with good information. All in all, its an app that I plan to keep on my iPhone for many, many, many years until I need it.