ne of the hottest apps in medicine started with an interrupted dinner.
Austin, Texas-based physicians Tim Gueramy, M.D., and Tracey Haas, D.O., were celebrating their first wedding anniversary four years ago when Dr. Gueramy got a page from the emergency room at the local trauma hospital about a patient with a fracture.
Dinner was cut short, and Dr. Gueramy, an orthopedic surgeon, spent the next four hours in the ER even though the patient's fracture turned out not to require emergency intervention. But what if there had been a HIPAA-compliant way to evaluate the injury ahead of time, such as viewing an X-ray on a cell phone?
"We set out that night to start developing technology to answer that question," said Dr. Haas, a family medicine physician.
The result was DocBookMD, a unique medical app that allows physicians to exchange texts, X-rays, images and other patient information on their smartphones or tablets without violating the HIPAA privacy rule. It also enables members of participating physician organizations, such as the Florida Medical Association, to search directories of their medical society colleagues and local pharmacies. (This fall, the FMA made the app available to members for free. To download the app for your iPhone, iPad or Android device, visit www.flmedical.org or scan the QR code above.)
The response from the medical community was swift and overwhelmingly positive: By Oct. 2012, DocBookMD had 11,500 users in 28 states, and the creators anticipate having users in 40 states by the end of the year. An enterprise that started in their home now has 18 employees, including five to six full-time IOS and Android developers. The app has come a long way from the days of its early adoption by physicians in Travis County, Texas.
"We never planned on it being larger than that," Dr. Haas said. "It has actually blown our minds that so many states are interested."
Dr. Gueramy wasn't exactly a technology newbie. After completing his undergraduate studies, he worked in the Anatomy Department of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, where he developed the first interactive histiology program. However, he and his wife initially tried to interest companies such as Motorola and Apple in creating the app before finding developers in Virginia to assist them. All the development is now done in-house at the DocBookMD headquarters in Austin.
Drs. Gueramy and Haas said DocBookMD has helped them in their own practices, allowing quicker diagnosis and coordination of care.
"An ER physician or resident can now take a picture of the X-ray and securely send it to me on my phone wherever I am, be it at dinner or be it in the operating room," Dr. Gueramy said. "It has changed the way the ER communicates with me about patients."
If Dr. Haas has questions about an EKG, she can send it via DocBookMD to a consulting cardiologist and get his or her opinion right in front of the patient. The app also is useful in cases where patients have recently been hospitalized. Because it can be difficult to get a hospital discharge summary in a timely fashion, Dr. Haas said she often sees patients before she has the information and has to rely on their version of events. Enter DocBookMD.
"We have been pushing hospitalists to put a quick discharge summary into DocBookMD and attach any pertinent labs and images," she said.
In early 2013, DocBookMD will allow users to create "patient care teams" within the app so that doctors can add staff members, such as physician assistants or practice managers, to their personal communications circles. Dr. Gueramy anticipates that physicians who use the app will soon be able to get paid for care interactions done via DocBookMD.
With the explosion of the health-care app market, physicians have plenty of mobile tools at their disposal. However, Drs. Gueramy and Haas believe that DocBookMD stands out as a physician-created app that is simple, intuitive and above all, helpful in the daily practice of medicine.
"Because two physicians came up with this app, we're very mindful of what is a distractor in the marketplace and what is useful," Dr. Haas said. "It's just about what a doctor wants (in order) to do their job better. We believe we are providing a solution to a real need."
Their Go-to Apps & Gadgets
Epocrates: Drs. Gueramy and Haas are big fans of Epocrates, a drug research application.
iPad: Dr. Gueramy swears by his traditional iPad but expects the miniature version to become his tablet of choice. "Over 25 percent of physicians have access to an iPad, but one of the barriers is that you can't carry it around. (The Mini) will actually fit in your back pocket. I'm going on record as saying that the iPad Mini will revolutionize the tablet world in the health-care space."
Fitbit: "I love Fitbit," Dr. Haas said of the wireless activity tracker she wears everywhere. "It encourages me to exercise more. Our office is on the fourth floor, so we're trying to get everyone to take the steps all day."