Effective communication with our patients can be incredibly challenging, in large part because of the enormous information divide between physicians and patients. When it comes to explaining a procedure to a patient, surgeons are trying to communicate in minutes what they have come to appreciate over many, many years.
In particular, they are trying to explain with words — and often crude sketches — something which relies heavily on the ability to visualize each step.
This is where DrawMD tries to intervene. The app is the brainchild of urologist Dr. Todd Morgan of Vanderbilt and urologic oncologist Dr. Alexander Kutikov of Fox Chase Cancer Center (Philadelphia), and was developed to enable surgeons to better communicate with their patients with a visual platform on which to base their explanations of disease and surgery. Read on to find out if it succeeds.
The app’s principle goal is to improve the doctor-patient communication, and thereby the patient’s understanding of their procedure. The home screen of the app presents this goal as a simple set of options: create a New Drawing or explore a Saved Drawing. The home screen also presents the instructions for the app and the ability to send feedback to the authors/developers.
The bulk of the app is expectedly the images. In the new drawings, there is a catalog of available images. Using these images, the user can add predetermined stamps, texts, and free drawings (in multiple colors). So for example, the surgeon could draw a small line depicting the eventual location of a scar, draw an arrow pointing to the part of the liver to be resected, and so on. While a relatively simple feature, these capabilities make this app a more dynamic and interactive component of the overall conversation between the patient and the surgeon.
The images presented are of good quality and anatomically present a simple and focused view of the relevant surgical region. The developers have separated the operative sites and tailored the stamps to each site.
Much of the app’s default information (physician name, office name/address, phone etc) can be preset, saving precious time and energy. In case the user feels there is something lacking, there is the ability to use imported images.
There is also the ability to print and email the images, which would be ideal during patient consultation settings. The emails are sent directly from the app.
Another use for the product would be medical education; from medical students to residents, the product can be used to visually educate and explain. To this end, one of the reviewers noted that he suggested the app to his residents after using it during an educational conference.
In ideal situations, the surgeon would have a well-developed arsenal of prepared, saved images that he could show each patient. However, with such a large catalogue in place, the app has some work remaining as there is currently no ability to sort and categorize user generated saved images/drawings.
The app takes some time to get used to, but this product can be useful as both a patient education tool and a medical education tool.
The app can also be used in landscape mode, as shown below.
- Free (all products in this series are currently free at the date of this publishing)
- Useful for patient education and communication
- Can also moonlight for medical education purposes
- Priced free
- Stamps could come with labels/captions in the drawings, which would help usability and save time
- Addition of more surgical sites (vascular, thoracic) and additional views (lateral, sagittal views) would continue to increase the functionality
- A well thought-out app that serves as an additional option for surgeons to use in educating their patients or students
- With increasing utilization of iPads by physicians, this would be a great addition as a consultation tool
Find the app on iTunes here.