AHRQ launches app to help patients prepare for medical visits

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality developed a new mobile app that helps patients prepare for medical visits. (AHRQ)

Patients often only have about 15 minutes with their doctors during an office visit and they often walk in unprepared for what questions they want their doctor to answer about their medical problem or treatment.

To help patients prepare for their medical visits, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) developed a new consumer mobile app that builds off the agency’s “Question Builder” online tool.

The Question Builder app, which is available at no charge for smartphones, tablets and laptop computers on iTunes and Google Play, aims to help patients organize questions and other information prior to medical visits.

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The app was developed with input from consumers and clinicians, according to AHRQ.

“Consumers liked the ability to have questions and other information at their fingertips during medical visits, while doctors, nurses and other clinicians said that better-prepared patients would lead to more effective and efficient visits and potentially more accurate diagnoses and better outcomes,” the agency said in a release.

“Patients can get better care by preparing to ask questions about their care and communicating effectively with their doctors, nurses and other providers,” Jeff Brady, M.D., who directs AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, said in a statement. “Asking questions to make sure patients understand instructions and other aspects of their care can help reduce the chance of missed diagnoses, identify the right tests that are needed, and avoid unnecessary hospital stays.”

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Through the app, patients can input details of their upcoming appointments, such as date and reason for the visit, and then choose questions they want to ask their doctor, starting with a list to prompt them with commonly asked questions in different situations. To talk to a doctor about medical tests, the app prompts patients to ask questions such as: How accurate is the test and what do I need to do to prepare for the test?

Patients can then use the app to email information to themselves or others for reference or can use the app to make notes during the medical visit. The app organizes content and questions by type of medical encounter, such as a medical visit or preparing for surgery, and offers consumer education materials and videos about the importance of asking questions and sharing information.

There’s also a camera option that allows patients to document visual information such as a skin rash, upload insurance or prescription medication information, and other photo-enabled features.

According to AHRQ, information entered into the Question Builder app resides on the user’s own device. The content is accessible via phone, tablet or laptop computer on both the iOS and Android operating systems.

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