Chikungunya may sound like an exotic foreign dish, but “you wouldn't want it,” said Dr. Art Papier, co-founder and CEO of Rochester, N.Y.-based VisualDx, a Web- and mobile-device-based diagnostic-support software system.
Papier should know. His company has begun offering a free version of its software called the Emerging Global Disease tool to help diagnose diseases that are unusual in the States.
Providers and patients can go to the tool's Web page, type in the name of a country where travel recently occurred, select from a list of 17 common symptoms, and then be presented with multiple possible diagnoses for consideration.
The tool also displays multiple images of the physical manifestations of the disease, such as skin rashes and pronounced swelling. Clinicians can click through to obtain detailed information about each disease, correct diagnosis and treatment.
“The recent spread of Ebola has sharpened our senses not only to travel-related infectious disease, but also the degree to which so many medical professionals do not have experience in diagnosing issues that they may have never before encountered,” Papier said.
Computerized diagnostic-support tools—a subset of clinical-decision-support systems—have been around for decades, but are still not in widespread use by clinicians, despite several highly publicized incidents in recent years in which improper diagnosis has had life-threatening consequences.
Papier—a devotee of health IT pioneer Dr. Lawrence Weed, an iconoclastic advocate of computerized diagnostic support—said the growing and regular use of these tools at the bedside and in the exam room is part of a paradigm shift in the way medicine should be taught and practiced in the computer age.
“You can search any country in the world and find endemic diseases” unfamiliar to clinicians in the U.S., Papier said. “No one can memorize all this information.”
The problem of diagnostic error is likely to be placed front and center in the patient safety realm in 2015.
An Institute of Medicine committee is working on a report about diagnostic error due to be released next year.
Papier said his company is offering the Web-based tool “to build awareness of the seriousness of what we do.”
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