The myBody myData app, for smartphone or tablet, gives patients greater insight into the scans made of their body in hospital. The app was developed by a radiologist at UMC Utrecht, who moonlights as a software developer. The software is a response to the wishes expressed by many patients, to have access to their own medical scans.
The idea for the app was born when radiologist Wouter Veldhuis of the University Medical Center Utrecht was repeatedly asked by patients whether they could have copies of their own MRI scans, CT scans, X-ray images, etc. The underlying reasons were that patients wanted to be able to share the images with their family or to have another look at them at home. “As a radiologist, I generate images of someone's body, yet they're not allowed access to them? That's actually pretty strange”, explains Veldhuis.
It was the reason why Veldhuis, by day a radiologist at the UMCU and in the evenings a software developer, decided to create software capable of sharing medical scans. That resulted in a pilot version of the myBody myData app a year ago, and a press release which has since prompted more than 1000 patients of the UMC Utrecht to start using it.
Feedback from these patients has helped Veldhuis further improve the app. Now that the pilot phase is complete, everyone can download the app from the Apple App Store and use it. An Android version is currently under development.
Drawing on the scan
The app is simple to use and is password protected. First and foremost, it allows patients to check their medical scans in their own time and to prepare any questions for the doctor treating them. They can, for example, insert an arrow in any area of the scan about which they have a question.
Doctors can also draw on the scan and add notes in response to a question. In the past, this could only be done at the doctor's desk, with the information being lost as soon as the patient walked out the door. The myBody myData app stores all these notes, for quick and easy reference during a following appointment.
The app can also share images with other doctors, for a second opinion for example, or for further treatment. The other doctor then receives the images directly from UMC Utrecht, in the highest quality and rendered suitable for use in the imaging system of the hospital in question. The pilot phase has demonstrated that this would take place around ten thousand times per year. Mind you, these are not extra requests. The app is replacing the many occasions that a DVD is sent by courier, with no form of security.
And finally, myBody myData also provides tips on Internet searches, which most patients do nowadays. As it can be difficult to distinguish between good and bad information, the app provides links to reliable websites and examples of useful searches.
As soon as the Android version of the app is available, Veldhuis plans to roll out the software to other hospitals as well. A parallel study will determine the effect on patients using the app. “We conducted a baseline study of stress levels among women who visit the hospital having discovered a lump in their breast. After all the tests, it can take up to a fortnight for them to hear the results. Our app can cut that waiting time. We know that waiting for results is a source of stress, and we therefore expect that, in the end, our app will contribute to reducing that stress.”
MyBody myData is the first app in the Netherlands with which patients can view and share their own images. “In fact, we're ahead of the field worldwide. I know of cases in which the patient can follow the communication between doctors from the side-lines, but none which actually allows them to take control.”
Focus on the patient
The app is in keeping with the trend of putting the focus on the patient in his or her own treatment. “That leads to better decisions and greater acceptance”, says Veldhuis. There is also the trend that patients’ medical data stays with them regardless of which medical institution they visit. “We once had the idea of creating a central electronic patient dossier in the Netherlands, but we seem to have strayed from that idea. The patient is now becoming key to his own data.”
Opening image: Radiologists discussing x-ray images.
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