by: Joshua James Harding BSc (Hons) (MS2)
Patient-physician communication is often identified as an area where medical professionals could do better. Whether its a shift from a more paternal system, the time pressures of modern medicine, or other pressures, we all want to effectively communicate with our patients. EC-Europe “the premier provider of doctor-patient communication products for the human health market” branched out into the app market back in July 2010, releasing a series of Miniatlas apps for the iPhone. Previously EC-Europe produced the Miniatlas series as a 10x15cm pocket book, among many other forms of medical media.
We previously reviewed one of the iPhone series, which was generally well received but had at least one major flaw. The limitations of the iPhone screen lead to a somewhat awkward experience for physician and patient. Since then however, the Miniatlas Series has been moved to the iPad. At present the series on the iPad covers 34 topics, from core subjects such as: Anatomy; Cardiology and Gastroenterology, to specific pathologies such as: Multiple sclerosis; Diabetes mellitus; Colon cancer and many more.
Colorectal cancer is a common condition that is certain to crop up time and again: at medical school, in training, and throughout your career as a physician. It represents essential knowledge and is an obvious target for an app aimed at improving doctor patient communication and so is the focus of this review.
First impressions of Colon Cancer miniatlas developed by Licitelco S.L. are very positive. The user interface is simple, yet slick and very easy to navigate. Icons are clear and responsive and the whole app reeks of professionalism. With native iPad support, the high quality images couldn’t look better and with fully functioning pinch and zoom, any user is able to navigate and explore them freely. Unlike some apps, the transition between portrait and horizontal use is excellent, with no loss in functionality and excellent scaling of all images.
The app has three chapters:
- Colorectal Cancer
- Colorectal anatomy and physiology
- Carcinogenesis and the biological bases of cancer
Each chapter contains multiple subheadings, each subheading is represented visually in key facts by a high quality medical image.
The user can either select the drop down menu to navigate through subheadings, use a swipe of the finger or the left and right navigation panel at the top of the page. Each image is supported by a concise and fully referenced text box. The size of the text can be increased or reduced, making it perfect for any reader.
At first glance the accompanying text does seem somewhat pointless though. Physician using the app will already know its content and therefore deliver it in a much more versatile manner to the patient than the app can. However this supplementary content is justified as soon as you become curious of the envelope shaped button in the corner of the app.
Pressing this button will open a new email message and automatically populate it with the high quality image from the page you were viewing and its accompanying text. This is a fantastic feature, as a physician’s time is limited with each patient it is neither possible nor practical to sit and go through the entire app explaining each image. The email feature allows the physician to quickly fire off emails with supplementary knowledge or a simple recap on what has already been discussed.
In my experience of this app, it has easily acted as a preferable replacement to hastily drawn pictures on a scrap of paper. Below you can see why.
Initial feedback from patients is very positive, however one problem with this specific app is that the incidence of colorectal cancer is much greater in the elderly. Not to stereotype too much but offering many patients with colorectal cancer an email is not a preferable option to a patient information leaflet.
User interface is almost faultless
High quality images that are excellent in helping patients understand their conditions
Email feature that allows the content to be exported from the app
Fully referenced so the content is reliable
Covers all of the important points likely to come up in a discussion with a patient
You can change the language to Spanish
The textbox although resizable on initial opening is not scrollable. This can be fixed by simply resizing the text.
EC-Europes’: Miniatlas Colon Cancer aims to enhance communication with patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer and allows them to better understand the nature of their condition. Empowering patients with knowledge of their diagnosis, through a collaborative doctor patient relationship is essential when managing a patient with colorectal cancer. It can be very difficult dealing with a diagnosis of cancer and patients who understand their conditions are more likely to make decisions and deal with them effectively. Ultimately Miniatlas Colon Cancer facilitates a better doctor patient relationship, which has been shown to increase patient satisfaction and lead to better overall health outcomes.