A couple of weeks ago our little more than two year old son had a fever in the morning while he was at the nursery. A day before the director of the nursery had sent and email to the parents informing us that two little children had fallen ill with scarlet fever. When talking about the situation my wife and me remember that our son had once been sick with something like that. We remembered somewhat similar symptoms, but we were not a 100% sure. In addition to that, we could not find the doctor’s prescription anymore and none of us could recall the name of the medicine we had used to cure him.
As we were not sure, the pediatrician (a different one than on the other occasion) recommended making an lab analysis for our son to find out whether or not he had the bacteria causing scarlet fever in his body. Days later the result showed that he did not have the bacteria, meaning that he had already suffered from this illness at an earlier time.
Photo: Jaime Villasana Dávila
Those of you who have children know that children under three years get ill quite frequently. Obviously, basic vaccines protect them from more harmful diseases like measles, hepatitis, polio, etc. but not from the less severe ones (like scarlet fever). The reason for this is that their immune system has to develop and grow stronger precisely by getting sick.
As the child grows from a new-born to a toddler, a lot of medication is accumulated at home in order to cure these minor illnesses. In order to remember the prescribed dose and frequency correctly, we have gotten into the habit of writing notes of these indications on the medicine packages. Sometimes we also make a note of the illness we used a certain medicine for. And if we do not know exactly what any of these medicines is for, we look that information up on the web. But this procedure is neither the best nor the quickest way to do it.
On various occasions we talked about how the mHealth sector is evolving at a tremendous pace, offering IT solutions that allow people to monitor and take care of their health supported by mobile devices, mainly their smartphones.
Now this time we want to look at an app developed in Spain, which allows us to consult information of any medication simply by taking a picture of its container. It is called FOTOfarma. This app, wich still is in its beta version, was developed by the pharmaceutical company Almirall, which is based in Barcelona and which investigates, develops, produces and markets pharmaceuticals of its own creation.
According to its description at Google Play, The application store for Android devices, using FOTOfarma, you can also “access the package leaflet of the medication and additional information regarding its administration (advice to the patient, tutorial videos, etc)”. In other words, with this app you will not have to write this kind of information onto the box of the medication, like I personally have been doing at home.
FOTOfarma, which is also available for theiPhone also allows you to program reminders associated with all the medicine you are taking, with the correct frequency and dose for successful treatment. These reminders can be scheduled just like any other notifications on your smartphone.
However, this is not the only application of its kind on the market. On iTunes you can find Medicine List, which come with similar features – like alerts when you have to take your medication. Another option on iTunes is DrugDoses, which not only supports patients but doctors as well by including abundant amounts of information on medicines for adults as well as children and babies.
Photo: Oliver Karam
On Google Play we can find other equivalent apps like Medicine Man developed by iPharma Inc., which, in the same way as DrugDoses, provides information about a great variety of medication for treating many minor illnesses. And another app among the many existing is GetMed, which is the self-proclaimed world’s fastest free medicine and generic drug search app.
Each of these apps varies in design and interface, revealing more or less information on determined issues. It is up to you to decide which of them suits you best. A clear disadvantage of the apps mentioned earlier is that none of them offers the function of FOTOfarma, which allows you to take a photo of the medicine’s container in order to obtain information about it. But they are all very useful for those who need to take one or more medicines on a regular basis or who are doctors, medical students, nurses or pharmacists.
Finally, it is important to remember that health is too serious an issue to leave important decisions to an app or a smartphone, both of which may fail occasionally for a number of reasons. We should always keep the limitations of mHealth in mind. Even the creators of these apps warn that they are merely of an informative nature and under no circumstances can they substitute a medical prescription and/or the information provided by the pharmaceutical companies themselves.
For these reasons, it might still be a good idea to jot down the most important information about medicine directly onto its box – at least the dose, frequency and the symptoms it treats. This may save you valuable time, especially in case of an emergency.
Photo: Jaime Villasana Dávila