If you're headed to the hospital and would like to notify the emergency room of your pending arrival and symptoms, there's an app for that now.
LewisGale Regional Health System is partnering with iTriage, a health care technology company that has developed a way for smartphone users to communicate with providers before they even check in.
Once consumers download the free app to their phone or iPad, they can see the closest hospital emergency room, physician's office or urgent care center in the region.
Providers that pay an annual fee to iTriage, such as LewisGale, will have the added benefit of being able to receive written communications from the app users.
After the patient hits "submit," a telephone rings in the emergency room, informing workers there to check for an iTriage fax with the pertinent information.
"Getting a heads-up about the patient's pending arrival and symptoms gives us the opportunity to prepare and better mobilize our resources to care for their specific medical needs," said Lisa Edwards, emergency room director for LewisGale Hospital Montgomery.
"It's all about providing more personalized care to our patients when they need it most."
The service will be available to patients en route to LewisGale emergency rooms in Salem, Blacksburg, Pulaski and Alleghany County.
Only a few LewisGale patients have downloaded the app so far. As part of a "soft launch" that began several weeks ago, physicians with the health care system encouraged a small number of patients to experiment with the system. The app is available for Android and Apple devices.
The response was positive, Edwards said, and now LewisGale is planning a more widespread promotion.
According to a spokeswoman for the Denver-based iTriage, more than 10 million people have downloaded the app in the United States and abroad since it was launched in 2008.
After iTriage was founded by two emergency room doctors, the company agreed to be acquired by Aetna in 2011, according to its website.
When patients log on the app, they see a diagram of the human body, with the option to select a part of the body that pains them. They can then select from a list of symptoms that range from abdominal distention to yellow skin.
In addition to transmitting that information to the emergency room where they are headed, consumers can use the app to locate other nearby providers and obtain general information on a variety of symptoms, conditions and diseases.
As part of LewisGale's plan, patients can also see the average wait time at the health system's emergency rooms.
LewisGale is not the only health care provider in the region looking for the latest in technology.
Carilion Clinic is considering several app products in the market, including iTriage, spokesman Eric Earnhart said.
The goal is to find an app that can be integrated into MyChart, the health care system's online personalized health management tool. MyChart launched in 2008 as a secure online program for patients to see test results, email doctors, view upcoming appointments and check immunization and medication records.
Combining an emergency room app with MyChart would create a "one-stop solution," Earnhart said, "where patients can provide advance notice, registration and access to their medical record all in a single message." ___