What should a parent do if their 8 year old girl has a persistent headache at night, the pediatrician’s office is closed, and they aren’t sure what the best next step in caring for her is? While many parents will consult Dr. Google, the pediatrics app KidsDoc is an intriguing alternative.
The KidsDoc app, an app made by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is designed to be a resource for parents who are seeking medical guidance for their sick or injured child. The description of the app says that it is specifically designed for moments when parents have medical questions after hours or when it would otherwise be difficult to reach their primary care physician. Here, we’ll update our last review of this app with a closer look at the information source & how you can prescribe it.
The most important aspect of AAP KidsDoc is that it provides a symptom-based triage protocol that gives recommendations to parents on whether they should go to the ER, call their primary care physician, or manage the symptoms at home. Primary care physicians can prescribe this app as an adjunct to the practice’s call-in nurse advice line.
The KidsDoc app has a very intuitive user interface and menu-based navigation. Starting on the home page, the user can either choose symptoms by body area or from an alphabetical list. There is also a “Keyword Search” button, which is useful, although a search bar on the home page would have saved the user some time. Still, it takes less than 30 seconds to find the desired symptom.
Once the user chooses a symptom, there are four menu items to choose from at the top of the screen. Let’s try the symptom of “headache.” The “When to Call” section is perhaps the most important part of AAP KidsDoc. According to the app’s instructions, the parent should read through the list of symptoms from the top down without skipping any, and when they find a match to a symptom their child has they should stop and take the suggested action. The suggested actions include: “Call 911 now,” “Go to ER now,” “Call doctor now or go to ER,” “Call doctor within 24 hours,” “Call doctor during office hours,” or perform “Self care at home.”
The next section is “Care Advice,” which for headaches contains basic information about what causes headaches in children, has links to acetaminophen and ibuprofen dosing tables (a very cool feature), and has other ideas for treating symptoms (stretching, cold packs, etc). The “Share” section allows the user to email the advice to others.
The previously mentioned dosage tables can also be accessed from the “Meds” button on the bottom of the home page. Next to this button is a handy “First Aid” section that gives parents advice for situations such as burns, wounds, and what to do if their kid gets a tooth knocked out.
Evidence Behind the App
The KidsDoc app and its triage protocols were designed largely by Dr. Barton Schmitt, MD FAAP. Dr. Schmitt is Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and has been the Medical Director of the Pediatric After-Hours Call Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado since 1988. He is the author of an AAP-sponsored book of telephone triage protocols currently in its 15th edition.1 In addition to Dr. Schmitt’s expertise, this pediatrics app benefits from its wealth of respected professional reviewers that are listed within the app. These include multiple medical directors of call centers, emergency medicine physicians, community pediatricians, telephone triage nurses, multiple pediatric subspecialists, and AAP appointed reviewers.
The KidsDoc app includes protocols that have evidence that supports their efficacy and safety. The AAP states that the advice on the app is based on the triage protocols of “10,000 practices and 400 nurse advice call centers” and that these protocols have been tested for “16 years on more than 150 million symptom calls.”
Dr. Schmitt and colleagues also wrote a journal article in Pediatrics in 1993 that described the After-Hours Program that is the basis for the AAP KidsDoc protocols. This article states that “in 4 years, 107,938 calls have been successfully managed without an adverse clinical outcome.” This study also cited high provider and parent satisfaction.
I agree with most of the information provided within this app, however due to differing physician styles no medical advice app can be perfect. This pediatrics app has been updated 8 times in the past 6 years, so the AAP appears to be committed to keeping this app up to date. I would suggest this app to parents with reasonable health literacy because the information in this app could be misinterpreted if parents have language or educational barriers. I would also recommend this app to parents with generally healthy children, as the information will not be very helpful for medically complex children. It is worth noting that AAP KidsDoc makes it very clear that the app is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
Overall, the KidsDoc app has evidence that supports its protocols and was designed by an experienced physician who has written journal articles and books on the subject. Primary care physicians can prescribe this app to parents with confidence. Further research is needed to refine pediatric triage protocols, and hopefully the AAP will continue to update this app over time.
- $1.99 on iTunes and Google Play store
- Clean, user-friendly design
- Has evidence to support the advice given in the app, was designed by a physician who is an expert at pediatric telephone triage, and was reviewed by multiple physicians, nurses, and stakeholders.
- $1.99 price is not cost prohibitive for most parents
- The advice is only relevant for otherwise healthy children and not for medically complex children
- AAP KidsDoc may be less useful for parents with educational, language, or cultural barriers and should be prescribed with this in mind
AAP KidsDoc is a very well designed app created by the AAP and physician and nursing experts and backed by a fair amount of evidence that primary care physicians can prescribe to parents to provide guidance on what next steps to take in caring for their sick or injured child.
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- Available for DownloadAndroidiPhoneiPad