iTriage is a mobile app that helps users understand, prioritize their acute health-related symptoms and seek appropriate and close-by care. Its service is also available on the web at iTriageHealth.

At the core is a symptom-checker that lets users do a high-level categorization of what could be wrong with them, and how serious/not can it be. That functionality is nothing special, since there are multiple services that do that both online and mobile. Also included is a nationwide directory of care facilities (including urgent care, retail clinics, pharmacies and physician offices) and nurse advice phonelines (sorted by insurance provider). Your smartphone knows where you are, so the neat service is to be able to find directions to the nearest facility with few clicks. It may not sound like much; but when you are away from home, it’s pretty useful to be able to quickly figure out the nearest urgent care or retail clinic. iTriage is also trying to take this service to another level with the addition of ‘ER wait times‘ functionality in select cities. That way a user can further filter out the facilities based on wait times. Even if this is not really present/reliable in your area today, I think it’s a brilliant extension of a service like iTriage. Because its not a question of if this will be useful, but when. Once there is a critical mass of hospitals in an area submitting their ER-time feed to iTriage, the rest will find it hard not to do the same. There is a need for public to have a near real-time pulse on ER utilization, and services like iTriage provide a good platform for it.

The other interesting aspect is their partner service integration. Healthgrades provides the physician/hospital quality reports within iTriage, although users need to pay to get info beyond minimal basic report. Teladoc provides the 24×7 physician advise service (its phone consultations are for under 40$ mostly). They also partner with a claims adjudication organization (name?) that helps consumers negotiate thier medical bills. One can argue that a lot of the above functionality can be accomplished with a mobile browser or search app. But the value-add of a dedicated app is to provide fast, context-relevant info and be a steady companion as the user traverses the acute healthcare system.

I heard Paul Hudson, MD (co-founder) speak at the Mobile Health 2010 conference last month. He used an intriguing term to describe their technology: “symptom-to-provider technology”. Guess that is one way to think about a IT service that holds your hand from beginning to end of an acute care episode. He placed iTriage in the “multi-billion $ self-referral market”, and gave couple of interesting factoids about it’s current utilization:

  • Around 89% iTraige members are commercially insured
  • It’s use has gone beyond Emergency care in some cases- people have used the Healthgrades info to switch providers

Both of those underscore the fact that consumers need a trusted guide in handling how they interact with the acute care system. ERs, Urgent Care centers are the way most people experience care delivery most of the time, and having insurance doesn’t really help in making a good choice. With mobile phones getting smarter, the ‘self-referral’ market is ripe for innovative services.