Atlanta-based online health advice website Sharecare has launched a free app, AskMD, that is meant to help users keep track of their symptoms and put them in contact with doctors and hospitals.
Launched by WebMD Founder Jeff Arnold, Sharecare is an online portal that connects healthcare professionals and patients. It offers a question and answer service for patients to connect with experts and health systems, a portal to connect with other patients dealing with health issues and a 16-week program to help users get fit. Sharecare also has a “RealAge Test” for users to find the true age of their body, which the company says has been taken by more than 30 million people since the test was first launched.
Sharecare’s app, AskMD, offers users a symptom checker that allows them to choose which symptoms they are feeling and then see which potential health issues they might have. The app then walks the user through a ‘consultation’ in which the app will ask the user a series of questions to identify more specifically what the symptom feels like, when it started, and if there are any other symptoms accompanying it. After the ‘consultation’, the user can enter in any information about medications that they are taking. When users have finished entering information, AskMD generates a list of potential problems the user might have ordered by the commonality of the potential problems.
AskMD has voice recognition software integrated in the app and powered by Nuance. All commands from the home screen can be initiated by voice. The app also has a database of hospitals within the app that the user can browse and filter based on insurance. AskMD’s exclusive advertiser, Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA Healthcare is the database’s preferred health system, but the database also pulls from Little Blue Book, a physician directory app that Sharecare acquired last year.
“We’re trying to take advantage of some of the load screen time and so it’s unobtrusive to the user but also still maintains the integrity of the content, and the integrity of the experience that people would expect tied to something as personal as their health,” Dr. Darria Gillespie, EVP of Clinical Strategy, told MobiHealthNews.
When it’s time for a doctor’s appointment, a user can fill out a “For your visit” section of the app that asks the user a series of personal questions that the provider might ask.
“People really aren’t great historians,” Sharecare VP of Product Toni Pashley told MobiHealthNews. “You get, on average, seven minutes with a physician. So the idea is to help make them prepared so that you can make the most of your time when your visiting with your doctor.”
Everything entered into the app is kept in a history that the user can refer back to if they want to try to find correlations in their data. Pashley hopes people use the app for these other features as well instead of just the symptom checker.
“One thing that we learned is that with symptom checkers people tend to use them once and then put it down,” Pashley said. “We are really trying to build a personalized, engaging experience so, you know, really building personal engagement. So that’s one thing we’re going to be looking at when we talk about success.”
AskMD also gives users the opportunity to add different profiles to the app so that they can not only keep track of their own symptoms but also the symptoms of anyone else in their family.
“One thing that was identified early on and as we were doing our research for the product was that there’s a role, the caregiver role,” Pashley said. “We wanted to make sure we made it easy for that kind of user to come in and be able to perform consultations for others.”
Sharecare initially planned to launch earlier this year, but when Apple made the announcement for iOS 7, the company chose to wait and tweak the app to better fit iOS 7′s features and functionality.
“You’ll see for iOS 7, we’re using background 3D imagery so that it shows motion,” Pashley said. “And we’re also switching these images out whenever the users select a different consultation. We also use the clean, simply user interface design that came out with iOS 7. We really liked, with iOS 7, their announcement was around the clean, simple usefulness of the design.”
Next year, Sharecare will launch an Android app but for now Pashley said the company is “really excited to be exclusive with iOS in the beginning”.
In August, HCA Healthcare sponsored Healthbox’s Nashville class.