Not a day in clinic goes by without a multitude of questions from new (and occasionally seasoned parents). These questions are fantastic for educating the parents and me on the best care for their children while avoiding unnecessary ER and Urgent Care visits. After hours though it seems to be a different story. Despite a free nurse and physician advice line, many of our parents take their children to be seen outside of our system for what sometimes seem to be more minor issues that could be seen in the morning or handled from home.
Previously we reviewed the outstanding app from the American Academy of Pediatrics called Kids Doc. Designed for parents to rapidly obtain information about common symptoms and illnesses in children, Kids Doc permits rapid triage for parents and assists them with deciding how and where to treat their children. The app is designed by Dr Barton Schmitt, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He is the Medical Director of a pediatric after hours call center and has written extensively on topic. He also is the author of an adult app called SymptomMD. This “new” Pediatric SymptomMD is really just a rebranding of Kids Doc with some additional content. It also costs $1 more than Kids Doc ($1.99 vs. $2.99). Is it worth the extra buck?
Let’s use a clinical scenario to illustrate how to use Pediatric SymptomMD. Pretend you are a parent. Your 5 year old son comes screaming into the house from the backyard after being stung by a bee. You can see the stinger still in his hand. This is his first bee sting and he has no known allergies. Instead of scooping and running to the nearest urgent care center, you open Pediatric SymptomMD to help decide what to do.
When you first open the app, you see several search options including alphabetical, body area and keyword search. Along the bottom of the app is an area labeled “First Aid Support” and icons for “Symptom”, “Seek Help”, “Meds”, “First Aid”, and “Parent Advice”. Other than the “Parent Advice” icon, the app is a complete clone of Kids Doc (along with some different color schemes).
You find “bee sting” using either the alphabetical or keyword searches easily. The app first gives you a definition of the symptom/condition. If for example, you meant “insect bite”, you can click it to be taken to that section of the app. The app also includes a number of photos for this particular topic including pictures of patients with stings as well as actual insects.
The section is further divided into “When to Call”, “Care Advice” and “Share”. The “When to Call” gives scenarios for “Call 911 Now”, “Go to ER Now”, “Call Doctor Now or Go to ER”, “Call Doctor Within 24 Hours”, “Call Doctor During Office Hours” and “Self Care at Home”. Clicking on any of these takes you to the recommended care advice for that particular heading. From the “911” section you can either call 911 right from the app or “See First Aid”. Certainly handy, but potentially could lead to some accidental 911 calls!
Just like in Kids Doc, the advice in the app is robust, expert, concise and easy to read. The authors clearly have spent a lot of time developing these scenarios. It is too bad that only the “911” section gives the option for “First Aid”. Selecting “Go to ER Now” or “Call Doctor Now” only gives you those options. However, it is very nice to be able to select your doctor in the app settings and be able to directly dial the provider from the app. The care advice section for bee stings appears appropriate, evidence based and avoids too many unusual home remedies (though it does discuss meat tenderizer and deodorant use–scant evidence for these).
Other functions in the app include the “Seek Help” section where you can call 911, poison control, find a nearby ER, etc. The “Meds” section allows you to put in the meds your child takes as well as their allergies. You can email or print the med and allergy lists right from the app. The best feature is the medication dosing tables. I get a lot of calls from parents asking about how to dose acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen. The app is worth it just for those dosing tables which are inexplicably not on the packaging for these OTC meds. The dosing tables also include a number of OTC cold and allergy meds. It does list the FDA warnings about age restrictions, risks of combination drugs, etc. which is great, but probably would be better off simply stating that these meds don’t work (dextromethorphan) and the risk of using them outweigh the benefits. The “First Aid” section is a fantastic summary of first aid for minor skin trauma and sprained ankles all the way up to CPR. The section includes some graphics though not of great quality. It does include some links to videos for some topics such as hands only CPR.
The main feature that distinguishes this app from Kids Doc is the inclusion of “Parent Advice”. This section includes seemingly everything from ADHD topics to weaning from the breast/bottle. This section is impressive and written with perhaps a bit more tongue and cheek with topics like “Video Game Craze” and “Vitamin Supplement Myth”. Looking through a selection of them, I didn’t really see anything I disagreed with though clearly a fair amount of opinion in some of them. Overall, I think this would be fantastic to have as a new parent and much more reliable than simply googling an answer or buying a baby book as many parents tend to do.
How to use the app in clinical practice
This app is clearly meant to be used by parents not by providers per se–though I learned a lot by simply reviewing the app. I already recommend Kids Doc to all of my new parents that I see in clinic.
Evidence based medicine
The app is a good example of an app for parents that still remains evidence based. The app includes information about the author and his credentials as well as the list of all of the reviewers of the material in the app. As parenting involves a good amount of art as well as science, the app certainly doesn’t pretend to be a pediatrics textbook, but it clearly gives reliable information.
Who would benefit from this App?
All parents should really have either Kids Doc or this app. Providers who take care of children should really consider recommending this app to all of the parents in their practice. The question is really whether or not the app is worth the extra dollar over Kids Doc. I think the addition of the Parent Advice section is really outstanding and easily worth the extra dollar even if you lose the American Academy of Pediatrics branding.
- Covers numerous common pediatric symptoms and conditions.
- Authoritative material from experienced author and reviewers.
- Easy to navigate throughout the app.
- Can call 911, pediatric providers, poison control from the app.
- Handy medication dosing tables for acetaminophen/ibuprofen.
- Complete copy of Kids Doc, but with addition of Parent Advice section.
- Graphics of fair quality and some of questionable utility.
A slight improvement on an already outstanding app.
- Overall Score
- User Interface
Easy to use and navigate within the app.
- Multimedia Usage
Has ability to email/print medication/allergy lists and to call providers from app. Graphics and links only of fair quality.
Relatively cheap and likely worth the $1 upgrade in price over Kids Doc to have the Parent Advice section.
- Real World Applicability
Fabulous resource for parents and any provider who cares for children.
- Device Used For Review
iPhone 6 running iOS 8.3
- Available for DownloadAndroidiPhoneiPad