Doctors as app makers? Sure, no coding required

Tools like Doctella are giving medical professionals a cheap and easy way to communicate with patients outside the office.

Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
3 min read

The days leading up to surgery can often be nerve-racking for a patient. Easier communication with doctors could help relieve some of those fears, and technology can play a key role in making that happen.


Doctella lets medical professionals check in with patients before and after surgery through mobile and web platforms. 


Platforms like Doctella, where medical professionals can create apps specific to their practice and each patient's condition without any coding, make it simpler for doctors to check in on patients outside the office. It's designed to help providers more easily build apps through Apple's CareKit, a software framework for developing health apps.

The site provides templates for doctors to choose from and then customize to their liking. From what we could find, it's one of the first such platforms that lets doctors make personalized apps without the need for software developers.

Let's say a patient is scheduled to undergo knee replacement surgery in five days. His or her doctor can virtually check in by sending survey questions via the Doctella app or through the web portal. Patients can record pain levels, tell doctors how prehab went and read educational materials.

Amer Haider, CEO and co-founder of Doctella, said the main idea is to capture data from sensors -- on fitness trackers, phones or cloud services, for example -- and marry that information with patient-reported outcomes and subjective data, creating a more effective way for medical professionals to process information and deliver care accordingly.

"That entire infrastructure between the data that we have on our bodies and what a doctor wants to see is completely missing," Haider said of the hole Doctella is meant to fill.

The delivery of health care through digital platforms is increasingly appealing in a more mobile world. People often rely on the internet to provide them with answers to their medical questions, suggesting the need for greater doctor-to-patient communication beyond the physician's office.

Add to that the growing appeal of fitness trackers like the FitBit, Apple Watch and Samsung Gear. According to IDC, vendors will ship a total of 125.5 million wearables this year, a 20.4 percent increase over 2016. Platforms like Doctella that harness data such as steps walked, body temperature and heart rate could prove quite useful.

Beyond surgery prep, Doctella is also used for tasks like sending patients biopsy results complete with explanations, effectively killing the need for phone calls. Vitals and exercise routines that are measured through fitness trackers or phone sensors can be shared with doctors or integrated into a patient's electronic health record. Providers can send information or questions to patients through email or text.

The Doctella platform is free for patients and is available on iOS, Android and the web. Providers are charged based on the number of active patients they work with.

"There's this big tidal wave -- that has been coming for a long time -- of health," Haider said of the health-tech field. "Now we're starting to get some insight into how it's actually going to manifest."

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