Mayo Clinic app now provides patient access to medical images

 - John Wald, MD
John Wald, MD

The Mayo Clinic app has been updated and now includes patient access to radiology images and Touch ID. The app was launched last October as a free download from Apple’s App Store, and demonstrated the continuing collaboration between Mayo and Apple.

According to John Wald, MD, medical director for public affairs at Mayo Clinic, the relationship with Apple has been built over a number of years. “We’re this medical organization out on the plains of Minnesota: We’re used to having people come to us, and that’s been our mindset,” said Wald, who is also a practicing neuroradiologist. “On the other hand, Apple is very consumer-focused in what they do: They’ve been learning a little bit about healthcare from us, and we’re learning about having a consumer mindset about healthcare from them.”

The idea behind the app is to put patients’ information in their own hands and allow them to do whatever they need to do with it, Wald said. “I have to tell you that it was anxiety producing for our clinicians, knowing that patients were going to have lab results within about 48 hours of the physicians getting access. It created a fair amount of discussion and consternation within the organization.”

But, as the app evolved, Wald said, physicians and providers have realized how much their patients appreciate having that information. Furthermore, he said, it has “elevated the discussion” between provider and patient. “It has really enhanced our ability to connect with patients,” he said. “Our hope is that in now providing radiology images, that does the same thing.”

The ability of patients to take non-diagnostic radiology images along with their radiology reports to their community provider or referring physicians should give those providers a better understanding of what is contained in those reports, Wald said.

“Within a week of announcing this update to the app, I got a call from a woman in Kentucky asking me how she could get the app with the images,” Wald said. This woman said that she had been told that she had a kink in her cerebral spinal fluid shunt, was having a hard time getting her providers to believe her and wanted the images to show them.

“Maybe she had a kink in it, and maybe she didn’t,” Wald said. “But, by allowing her to take that image back to her local provider through the app, those physicians can at least see what she thinks is the problem and have a better discussion without having to have the digital images electronically transferred or having a disk made of those images and having it transported to the provider.”

Looking to the future, Wald said: “Where we believe we need to go in the next generation of our Mayo Clinic app is to start to explore the consumer space. Currently, the Mayo Clinic app is only available to our patients, but if we really want to start influencing healthcare internationally, we’ll have to start to reach out to health consumers. And from my own perspective as a neuroradiologist, some of that will have to include imaging.”

For example, he pointed out that imaging could be added to a report for a patient who has a schwannoma that could be linked to content defining what a schwannoma is, as well as other tools that could help patients make more informed decisions about their healthcare.

“But to be able to do that in a consistent way really isn’t so much about the technical solutions as much as its about the healthcare and process solutions,” he said. “How do you set up algorithms that guide people down the right path based on what they input into the app? Whether it’s cardiac disease, diabetes, or a brain tumor, if you reach out to consumers you have to be able to guide them in a very thoughtful, medically based way that benefits them, and I think those paradigms have yet to be defined.”