Superbug tracking app hits top medical spot in Apple's App Store

The superbug tracking app has been accessed more than 300,000 times

An application that uses big data to enable clinicians to track superbug transmission in their region has reached 100,000 downloads in less than a month.

In its first week, the "Bugs + Drugs" app, created by medical software vendor Epocrates, shot to the number one free medical app spot in Apple's App Store when it was released last month.

The app was created to track antibiotic resistant bacteria or "superbugs" such as e.coli and staph.

Bugs + Drugs
A screen shot of Epocrates' Bugs + Drugs app on an iPhone.

Every year more than 2 million people in the U.S. contract infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many clinicians who work outside of hospitals are unaware of the bacteria types pervasive in their regions.

Epocrates wrote the app and collaborated with its parent company, AthenaHealth, to use the e-health record services and medical billing company's big data warehouse. AthenaHealth's cloud-based clinical database of 15 million patient records has antimicrobial susceptibility data connected to geolocated information about bacteria types and resistance patterns.

The new app provides geographical data on the superbugs and information on the appropriate prescriptions to offer for antibiotic resistant strains. The Bugs + Drugs app's results can be viewed for bacteria by specimen types and is paired with Epocrates' free online drug reference app to help with prescribing decisions.

"It is sometimes challenging to judge what the resistance is for a presenting bacteria. By displaying resistance patterns in my area, Epocrates Bugs + Drugs helps ensure that I prescribe only one course of antibiotic and avoid medications that have shown to be resistant," said Dr. Tolbert, a family physician in Burlington, Ky., said in a statement. "Epocrates helps me create a successful treatment plan, which provides higher levels of patient compliance and satisfaction."

Bugs + Drugs
A screen shot of the prescription assistance program.

The majority of bacterial searches in the app are in higher-risk metropolitan areas, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, according to Epocrates. Susceptibility patterns associated with organisms including e.coli and staphylococcus aureus -- commonly found in urine and skin infections -- are among the most viewed by the app's users.

Abbe Don, vice president of user experience at Epocrates, said the company adds more than 6,000 antibacterial lab data points to its cloud network every day to generate fresh results.

"This is a great example of how aggregated [electronic health record] data can be utilized, and clinicians have clearly responded to it," Don said. "The app has now been accessed more than 300,000 times since launch, with an average of approximately 4,000 uses a day."

This article, Superbug tracking app hits top medical spot in Apple App Store, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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