Tuesday, March 1, 2011

0 Free or Cheap iPhone Apps for Lyme Disease Patients

This past weekend, I took a look at some  iPhone (also iPhone Touch, iPad) applications that iTunes had available that might be of use for many Lyme disease patients.  I went in search of ones which were rated good to excellent, free or inexpensive, and downloaded them myself to give them a try.

This is the short list of what I've looked at so far that I liked, with general descriptions supplied by the app company, screenshots, and then some comments. (All prices in USD)

1) iLog Lyme

Application Type: Medical Log

$1.99
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone,
iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Lyme Disease can be a debilitating disorder which may affect all parts of your body. Having the disease can be challenging to say the least, which is why iLog Lyme was developed. iLog Lyme can help you track your symptoms and hopefully your progress as you deal with the many and varied problems associated with Lyme Disease.

Features:
  • Easy drop down menus - minimal typing.
  • Email your symptom history using the weekly or monthly selection. You pick the start date, iLog Lyme brings up your symptom history for the correct time period.
  • Medication log. You enter in your medications and dosage and it saves it. No more carrying around a piece of paper with a list of all your medications. They'll be right at your finger tips.
  • Has a Common Symptom feature for entering in your daily logs. If there are common symptoms that you experience on a daily basis - just add them to the common symptoms database and turn on the feature. Then whenever you enter in a new daily symptom log, your common symptoms are already populated. (If you don't want to use the Common Symptoms feature simply turn it off for that day - your common symptoms will be still be there, they just won't pre-populate your daily log. When you are ready to start using them again, simply turn the feature back on.)
  • Symptom lists cover the majority of all body systems.
  • View your symptoms on your device either by day or by week. Simply choose the start date.
We now have a Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/App-iLog-Lyme/128260200570444

In addition, a portion of the sales from iLog Lyme will be donated to the International Lyme and Associated Disease Societies as well as the Michigan Lyme Disease Association.
http://www.ilads.org
http://www.hvcn.org/info/mlda/support.shtml

NOTE: iLog Lyme is in no way a substitute for proper medical care. iLog Lyme should not be used to diagnose or treat medical conditions as it is only a method to track symptoms that may be experienced and it should be used in conjunction with your health care professional.



Things I Liked About It:
  • It is relatively straightforward to use with no complicated settings.
  • Each one of these menus, such as "Musculoskeletal System" has a wide variety of symptoms listed under each to choose from. The symptoms lists really do have Lyme patients in mind.
  • Each symptom can be rated using a descriptive pain scale: No Symptom, Mild, Bothersome, Restricts Activity, and Severe.
  • You can create a template of all your Common Symptoms - symptoms you usually experience - and save them to apply to a different day's entry so you do not have to fill out every category from scratch.
  • You can view your symptoms for a daily or weekly report to make comparisons.
  • You can email a weekly or monthly symptoms report to someone else (like your LLMD).
  • You can record a list of medications you are currently taking.
  • Buying this app supports the patient community - something few apps can claim.
Things That Could Use Improvement:
  • It does take a long time to initially get through all of the symptoms lists to check them off. I know the Common Symptoms template helps you save time, but it's still a long process.
  • Viewing symptoms daily requires looking at each category of symptoms individually rather than having a report that looks like the one you would send in email, listing all symptoms. Listing all symptoms to view in the same window would be useful.
  • Being able to generate a chart for each symptom - or at least to be able to select a given number of symptoms and view their scale rating over time - would be a great way to show progress and setbacks.
  • The medications aspect of the app is not well integrated. There is no notification system or pill tracker tied to it, and the list of medications does not get added to the email symptoms report, either.
Overall thoughts:

I really like the symptoms list for being comprehensive and the ability to mark each symptom for pain/functionality. I think its best virtue is that you can carry the Common Symptoms list over to each entry as much as possible, so as to cut down on having to select the same long set of symptoms over and over. Its second best virtue is that you can select a range of time periods and send a copy of all your symptoms to your LLMD or another doctor.  I'm going to continue using this for a while and see how it goes... I might stick with this just for the Lyme/TBD specific symptoms.


2) Dragon Dictation


Application Type: Voice-to-Text Utility

Free
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone,
iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Dragon® NaturallySpeaking® that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. In fact, it’s up to five (5) times faster than typing on the keyboard.

With Dragon Dictation you can also dictate status updates directly to your Social Networking applications (Facebook and Twitter) or send notes and reminders to yourself….all using your voice.  So when you’re on-the-go, stop typing and start speaking – from short text messages to longer email messages, and anything in between.

Dragon Dictation supports a multitude of global languages. For a full list of currently supported languages visit www.dragonmobileapps.com.

Note: Dragon also has applications Android and Blackberry users can download. See: http://www.dragonmobileapps.com/android/flex.html FlexT9 for Android
http://www.dragonmobileapps.com/bb/dragonforemail.html Dragon for E-Mail for Blackberry


Things I Liked About It:
  • It is very easy to use.
  • It is WAY quicker to speak the words for your Facebook status than type them. Amazing.
  • It saves my arthritic wrists and elbows from extra grief. It may save yours.
  • It integrates well with Facebook and Twitter.
  • By default, you can set it to a few other languages if you speak them: German, Spanish, French, Italian.
  • You can pull your Contacts list into the app so they are more easily recognized.
  • You can set the app to detect when you stop talking so it stops recording.
  • You can copy and paste the text into any app. This is one of the best parts, in my opinion.
Things That Could Use Improvement:
  • The way the app works, you cannot use it to take dictation when you are not using either 3G or wifi. It would be nice to be able to use the app offline without sinking bandwidth.
  • You need a strong and stable network connection or you could lose part of your post - or it may lag.
  • Not needed for me, but for others: If you have an older iPod touch, you will need a headset with a microphone to use this app. This warning should be explicit on the iTunes app page.
Overall Thoughts:

I really like it. It saves wear and tear on my joints, it's easy to use, the price is right, and it is so much faster to use than my little i-keyboard. It seems to understand my speech with a high degree of accuracy. I intend to use it as much as I can - provided I'm in a private place and not using a laptop already. 


3) iHealthTrax

Application Type: Medical Log, Pill Tracker

$5.99 / Also Free (version has small ads)
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.

Remembers your illness history so you don't have to!
  • Keep separate calendars for various people (great for keeping track of illness / health in your family)
  • Record notes as often as every day
  • Export data as email
Useful for doctor's appointments...
  • Consult with Illness Tracker to report dates of illness, fever, etc.
  • Password protection (go to settings to activate)
On each calendar day, you may record the following:
  • Custom notes
  • Pain scale (1-10)
  • Indicate that medication was taken
  • Fever and temperature (Now multiple times each day!)
  • Doctor's appointment
  • Indicate that you are sick


Things I Liked About It:
  • You can set an exact time each symptom began.
  • You can create a custom symptom of your own if existing symptoms aren't enough.
  • You can record the time each symptom comes up.
  • You can rank your pain for an entry from 1-10 (but not Allie Brosh's awesome pain scale).
  • You can mark a specific day as one you saw a doctor.
  • You can record a fever multiple times during the day, using either F or C.
  • You can keep notes for each daily log entry.
  • You can list pulse and blood pressure in each daily entry.
  • You can list medications you took in each daily entry.
  • You can create profiles containing all of the above for different family members.
  • Each profile contains the user's name, birthday, doctor's name and number, and additional notes.
  • There is a nice visual summary you can view of more than one entry.
  • You can set a password, back up your data to your desktop, email your data in text or Excel format, and send various numbers of logs from 1 week to all logs.

Things That Could Use Improvement:
  • What seems to be initially a good idea, fails in the execution of what it could be. Integrating a real pill tracker into this would be very useful, but it's not there. All you have is the ability to list what medication you took today - there is no push notification or reminder, nor is there an indication of how many pills you started with and how many you have left. RxmindMe has this functionality.
  • The pain scale only applies to a general pain for the entire day. You can't record changing pain levels over the day - nor can you record each symptom's pain level like you can in iLog Lyme.
  • Graphing progress would be very useful. Here we are recording all this data, but there is no way to aggregate it and show either a chart mapping improvement over a given time period or to pick out high blood pressure and pulse and show trends. A visual chart generated using certain inputs would be welcome here. The closest you get to this sort of view is the summary window.
  • The little box that gives you the option to mark it as "sick day" instead of a normal day is pretty laughable for Lyme patients. I think even for most non-Lyme patients, this box is extraneous... I imagine most people don't track symptoms unless they are feeling off.
Overall thoughts:

It's a good little app for what it does, and it does it for free. The paid version isn't much better - the only difference is ads. If the ads do not bother you, you may want to get the free version and see how it works for you if you don't already have a symptom and pain tracking app you love. Other apps on the market with similar features are not getting as high scores and even some paid apps lack some features this one has.

4) RxmindMe Prescription Reminder and Pill Tracker


Application Type: Advanced Pill Tracker

Free
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone,
iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later
(Android version coming soon)

RxmindMe is a prescription reminder that uses multitasking to alert you every time you need to take a prescription. We allow you to enter all your prescriptions, setup reminders, and track when you have taken them.

We can handle the most complicated of reminders, if you are having trouble scheduling a reminder - please email our support.

Current Features Include:
  • NINE different types of reminders: Every "X" Number of Days, Hourly, Daily, on specific dates, weekly, on a particular day of the month, as needed, on a particular week of a month, or even just recording pills you took out of the blue
  • Prescription Quantities now count down as you mark your reminders as 'Taken' will automatically update the prescription quantity!
  • Export all your prescription data with ease! (Export Data in More menu)
  • Take picture of your prescription (Devices with Cameras Only)
  • Email Prescription History (Both email and Comma Separated Value - Imports into Excel and Numbers)
  • Family Members for Medications
  • The entire FDA Drug Database to search for your medications
  • SECURE - All of your prescriptions are stored on your iPhone, no information pertaining to your prescription is EVER sent to our server
  • All reminders are reoccurring
  • Easy to use interface to turn reminders on - off - or delete them
  • Historical tracking of your prescriptions and when you took them
  • Now uses Multitasking to give you your notifications, allowing you to be using other applications and receive reminders.
  • Input of all your prescription information (But, you don't need to input your prescriptions to setup reminders)
  • Passcode to prevent wondering eyes on your phone to see your prescriptions (Don't you hate it when people ask to borrow your iPhone?)


Overall Thoughts: 

I'm not listing pros and cons here so far, because so far I think this app is really good for what it does and I have no complaint. About the only unnerving thing so far is that the software engineers have put a warning on the site saying they know there are false or "ghost" reminders that show up and they are working hard to fix the bug. 

I need to use this app over a longer period of time to see if it is buggy  - but so far I love its features.

5) We Breathe

Application Type: Relaxation & Breath Control

Free
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, 
iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.

When you’re stressed, you often take shorter breaths. To teach yourself to relax, it’s important to take longer breaths. We Breathe v.1 helps you to do this.

When the balloon expands, you breathe in. When the balloon goes down, you breathe out. Simple.

Also includes a Stress Slider to set your stress level, a color setting for your balloon, and a timer to remind you when to relax during the day.

As well, your balloon will syncronise with every other We Breathe user on the planet. So, you’ll all be breathing in and out at the same time!


Things I Liked About It:
  • It is WAY easy to use. Even with brain fog.
  • You can adjust your breathing speed based on how much stress you are experiencing.
  • You can change the color of the balloon to several different colors if you don't like the default.
  • You can set up a reminder to do your breathing exercise at the same time up to 7 days a week.
  • It can be relaxing or distracting once you get into just focusing on your breath.
Things That Could Use Improvement:
  • The pencil button is counterintuitive for one used to change balloon color. I thought it was going to take me to an area to write notes. A palette button should be used for changing color.
  • Once again, here's an app where I think being able to chart progress would be nice. How many days did I complete my exercises successfully? How many days did I blow them off? How many days did I have the slider set to high vs low stress, and when? This would be good to record and show as a graph or chart.
  • It takes a while to get the balloon to contract and expand after clicking on it. Shortening this time would be nice.
  • The added functionality setting a timer for a duration to practice would be good.
Overall thoughts:

It's a simple app and I didn't have many expectations out of it. It's okay. I've found another breathing app that does more of what I want, though, and will be using that over time to track my progress. Once I've used it a while, I'll review it.


6) TBD - Tick Borne Diseases (RSS reader)


Application Type: Special interest RSS reader

Free
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone,
iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.1 or later.

Tick Born Diseases (TBD) is an application that allows you to receive the last 15 publications on tick-borne diseases published in PubMed each new connection. The studies are classified according to the following order : Lyme Disease, Tick, Babesia, Tick Born Encephalitis (TBE), Bartonella, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Rickettsiae, Turalemia, Q fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF).






Things I Like About It:
  • It is pretty straightforward and easy to use. 
  • It breaks down RSS feeds into different tick borne diseases so you can view them depending on interest or which coinfection you have. (... More section = more tick borne infection rss feeds )
  • There is a separate section just for tick information.
  • Once the abstract is loaded in the window, you can zoom in and out to view it.
Things That Could Use Improvement:
  • It is another bandwidth user, and it would be nice to be able to save abstracts and view them offline as an option.
  • It would be nice if it aggregated rss feeds from other peer reviewed sources outside of PubMed. It seems pretty limiting to just list abstracts from one peer reviewed site.
  • It would be nice to add general science articles from Science Daily and other science sites.
Overall Thoughts:

In a pinch when I'm sitting in a coffee shop and just hankering for the latest PubMed reports, I might use it. But probably after I've already checked support groups, email, and other sites... I'm probably more likely to want to look at abstracts and full papers at home on my laptop - where I can actually read the print more easily and view any charts and tables without hassle.


7) Immunity

Application Type: Action Game

$0.99

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone,
iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.


Hordes of exotic microbes threaten to cut your tropical vacation short. Strategically command your immune system to defend your intestines from pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Immunity features 30 frantic, story-mode levels and a survival mode for endless, educational fun.


Overall Thoughts:

On the one hand, this game appealed to me, because it's about me versus these nasty bugs and parasites that are trying to drill their way into the epithelial cell walls of the villi in the intestine - and I get to stop them.  On the other hand, there isn't much here in terms of an instruction manual up front - you learn as you go along, and sometimes the process is slow.

I like the Japanimation feel to the storyboard - the story being a young man gets on a plane and takes a trip overseas, and during the course of his adventure he meets with exotic and not-so-exotic pathogens that you have to help him fight off. 

It is awesome to be able to patch together someone's villi to prevent the bad bugs from getting in, and to periodically get new immune system cells of different kinds to fend off the invaders. This is easy when it comes to the young man's travel story. 

But if you look at the first (home) screen, there is a button that says "Endless". And this is not the young man's story at all - no, this is the story of someone with AIDS or HIV, and you are in an intense battle to try to keep invading organisms out of the walls of your villi. Believe me, it is a much harder version of game play at that level.

As a Lyme patient, I recommend this for the catharsis you can feel out of defending someone against infection - go with the story for that, though, and not "The Endless". You will die too soon, and that's depressing. I also recommend that you don't expect too much out of yourself at first - it's not an easy game to play overall, and may be physically hard on wrists and fingers. 

If you bow out of this one, there is always Centipede Ultra... You can pretend you are blasting the shit out of spirochetes there.



One app I can definitely mention in closing here that I did not include was Tick Doctor. Most Lyme disease patients will find it of little utility and may experience some level of disgust from its full color photos of ticks and notes on how to identify them. They also mention some of the illnesses they carry and mention a few symptoms - but I think the information is limited, is outdated, and is so much less than the average Lyme patient knows by now that it is of no use.

So, these are my reviews for now. More coming in a future edition.

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