HealthTap Brings Instant Gratification to Healthcare with New Talk To Docs App

First-ever voice-activated health companion puts answers from 50,000 U.S.-licensed doctors at everyone’s fingertips

Palo Alto, CA – October 30, 2013. HealthTap, the company leading the mobile revolution in healthcare, today unveiled TalkToDocs. This unique new app makes the knowledge of 50,000+ doctors available immediately anytime, anywhere. Using the simple, voice-activated interface of the new TalkToDocs app, anyone who needs health information can simply speak their health and wellness related questions and receive instantaneous, personalized responses from qualified doctors, at no cost.

 

TalkToDocs is:

  • Voice-controlled: No need to type and view text on a small screen (text and pictures are also available on demand).
  • Instantaneous: TalkToDocs provides people with immediate expertise and immediate relief.
  • Trustworthy: TalkToDocs offers personalized answers to every health question, created exclusively by U.S.-licensed doctors in good standing.

 

TalkToDocs is the first project launched out of HealthTap Labs. Based on insights from the millions who have already used the ultra-popular HealthTap app, computer and data scientists at HealthTap Labs combined artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and advanced voice recognition technologies to create the new app.

“TalkToDocs not only understands the health topic presented in a spoken question, it also determines and reads back the best doctor answers for the person who asked it,” said Geoffrey Rutledge, MD, PhD, HealthTap’s chief medical and data officer. “Having served more than 1 billion doctor answers to people in need everywhere, we have created and organized the world’s most extensive knowledgebase of user questions matched to answers from trusted doctors. Using data science and advanced semantic technology, we’ve built an app that everyone, young or old, healthy or ill, should have on their phone – for a time of need.”

“Immediate access to trusted doctors really matters,” said Ron Gutman, HealthTap’s founder and CEO. “In the past few months, more than 10,000 HealthTap users have already sent us notes thanking us for saving their lives. When people have health questions, they want and need answers now, and they want to be able to trust those answers. This is exactly the promise of TalkToDocs. It’s everything that people have come not to expect of our current healthcare system: fast, reliable, and ubiquitous!

Solutions like this, where you can speak a question and get an immediate answer from a doctor, are especially critical as more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans prepare to enter the health system with the Affordable Care Act, and make demands on our already-stretched resources.”

TalkToDocs is powered by HealthTap, the premiere mobile health platform that puts trust and customer focus at the center of healthcare.

About HealthTap

HealthTap is the best way to connect with the most trusted health information and doctors. With top-rated web and mobile apps, HealthTap offers immediate and free access to personalized, reliable, and trusted health answers and tips from a network of over 50,000 U.S.-licensed doctors. Sign up today and download HealthTap’s free apps for iPhone, iPad or Android at www.healthtap.com.

For even faster, easier access to the full HealthTap knowledgebase, download TalkToDocs at healthtap.com/talktodocs_android or healthtap.com/talktodocs_ios.

 

Media Contacts

Kei Hoshino Quigley

healthtap@launchsquad.com

(415) 625-8555

Wellness Series: Ankle Sprains

From our own experiences, changing directions too quickly while playing squash and tripping on stealthily hidden rocks while running down a hill can both lead to badly sprained ankles. But did you know ‘sprain’ is a general term that is often misused? Dr. Paul Kovatis explains that it actually refers to the “stretching, partial tearing or tearing of a ligament – the ‘rubber bands’ that hold bones and joints together”.

Dr. Grace Torres-Hodges reveals three degrees of ankle sprains, which are based on how bad the injury is and how many ligaments are damaged:

A 1st Degree Sprain…
…“is a tear of only a few fibers of the ligament”, according to Dr. Alan Ettinger. Dr. Eric J. Lullove characterizes it with “minimal pain, swelling, and color changes”.

A 2nd Degree Sprain…
… involves a “partial tear of the ligament”, possibly two of the primary ones on the outside of the ankle, according to Dr. Neil Horsley.

A 3rd Degree Sprain…
…according to Dr. Philip Rosenblum, involves “a complete disruption of the ligaments” and usually requires surgery to repair and a cast or splint to stabilize. Dr. Wenjay Sung adds that internal ankle joint damage may also be involved. Yikes!

OTTA WAtch out for those signs!

Dr. Kovatis lists “pain, swelling, inability to bear full weight on the ankle, numbness, and bruising” as signs of an ankle sprain. Be careful though! A bone fracture may present similar symptoms. One way to tell, says Dr. Shaun Machen, is you can generally walk with a sprain but not with a fracture.

Dr. Geoff W. Rutledge explains that doctors use a set of rules known as the Ottawa criteria to decide if an x-ray is needed. If you pass the test, Dr. David Wong says there is an 85% clinical certainty that there is no fracture. Dr. Rutledge recommends seeing a doctor unless:

A. You have no trouble walking
B. The only spot on your ankle/foot that is tender and swollen is just below and in front of the bony lump on the outside of your ankle

So you’ve sprained it, now what?

STEP 1: Got RICE?

To start, Dr. Cassandra Y. Lee and many others recommend the “RICE” method:

Rest: For the first 24 to 48 hrs, Dr. Clarke Holmes and Dr. Wenjay Sung insist on limiting any painful weight-bearing on the sprained ankle or staying off it completely.

Ice: For the first 2 days after injury, apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every few hours. Dr. Heidi A. Fowler suggests using your old friend: a bag of frozen peas.

Compression: Wrap your foot, ankle, and lower leg with an ACE wrap to limit side-to-side motion. But make sure it isn’t so tight that it cuts off circulation! Dr. Jeffrey C. Kass recommends wrapping in a figure-8 method. Immobilization with a splint, brace, air-cast or boot walker could also help, according to Dr. Payam Rafat.

Elevation: Elevate your ankle above your heart. Stack a few pillows up like pancakes and prop away!

STEP 2: Turn the Heat Down!

Dr. Rafat proposes oral anti-inflammatory medication to help with pain and swelling. Dr. Rutledge suggests “acetaminophen as a pain reliever that does not have anti-inflammatory activity”.  For another alternative, Dr. Ellen Wenzel and  Dr. Bob Levine prescribe topical NSAIDS that “penetrate the skin for localized effect” to avoid side effects of an upset stomach. Two such prescription NSAIDS recommended by Dr. Kenneth Tepper are Voltaren Gel and Pennsaid. However, if you do not exhibit stomach problems, oral medications are considered more effective.

STEP 3: Look At Me Now

If after two days, your ankle is still very swollen, discolored, and not improving in mobility, Dr. Myra L. Skluth, Dr. Glenn Aufseeser, and Dr. Wenzel advise seeing a podiatrist or foot and ankle orthopedist. If an initial x-ray of the ankle reveals no fracture, but it continues to show no improvement, Dr. Rutledge recommends revisiting the doctor after 7 days.

STEP 4: Do the Wiggle Man!

Once the swelling has decreased, Dr. Lee recommends working on range of motion. Gently progress to strengthening and return to activities as tolerated.  Keep in mind this stage of treatment is only relevant after several days of careful monitoring and improvement in the ankle’s condition.  Once again, if you see any regression of the ankle’s condition, go see a doctor!

With that said, the Recovery Time For…

…1st degree sprains = 1 to 2 weeks
…2nd degree sprains = approximately 4 weeks
…3rd degree sprains = typically 6 to 8 weeks, but up to 6 months

Last, but not least…

…don’t ignore it!  According to Dr. Stephen Frania, ignoring a sprain can lead to re-injury and a chronically unstable ankle joint.
…don’t apply heat! Applying heat can increase blood flow, leading to swelling and prolonged healing time, explains Dr. Danny Westmoreland.

Wellness Series: Hangover Recoveries

Last night you indulged in one too many cocktails. Not surprisingly, this morning you wake up with the all too familiar hammering headache and nausea. But while you may be intimate with the feeling of a hangover, how well do you really understand it?

Dr. James G. Saccomando defines a hangover as an “early withdrawal from alcohol.” Dr. Yale C. Kanter adds that it is “an electrolyte hydration disorder associated with excessive use of alcoholic drinking.” Bet you never thought of a hangover that way before! Dr. Gregg Albers explains that “when you drink, your body metabolizes alcohol into a chemical (acetaldehyde) that causes the symptoms of a hangover. The slower you metabolize the alcohol, the more symptoms you get.” Most hangovers last for “a few hours, some more than 6 hours, a very few 8-12 hours”, notes Dr. Albers.

How could you have prevented this hangover?
  1. Learn your 123’s! Dr. Maritza Baez recommends “not drinking more than 5 alcoholic drinks (of normal size) a night and no more than 3 in a 2 hour period.

  2. And your ABC’s! If you drink occasionally, taking a “good B-complex vitamin and vitamin C prior to drinking may help” with hangovers, suggests Dr. Randy S. Baker.

  3. Beer, Water, Beer, Water… Dr. Baez recommends that you “make sure you have had at least 5 cups of water” before you drink alcohol.  Dr. Albert G. Pizzo recommends “alternating your alcohol with water” since hangovers are worsened by dehydration. Remember also to drink plenty of water before bed!

  4. Diversity is not the spice of drinking. Dr. Baez recommends “sticking to light alcohols and to the same type” during a drinking session. Dr. Pamela A. Pappas explains that “some kinds of alcohol contain congeners or a type of impurity”, which can lead to worse hangovers; “the more you mix, the more likelihood of difficulty”.

  5. Munchies! Dr. Luis M. Irizarry states that “munching is good for preventing hangovers”, but warns that “alcohol + munchings = beer belly”.  Better to have a full meal beforehand and save munching as a back up plan!

8 Ways To Deal With Your Hangover

  1. 100% H2O by Volume. Dr. Kenneth Smith advises people to “increase water intake to dilute metabolites and correct hydration status” since alcohol is a diuretic.

  2. If you like piña coladas… Dr. Shalabh S. Bansal recommends electrolyte replenishment with products like Gatorade or coconut water, which better matches the osmolality of our blood.  Dr. Baker also advises that “if you’ve been vomiting after excessive drinking, Pedialyte will also help”, although it will not prevent hangovers or vomiting.

  3. The other kind of toast. Dr. Slade A. Suchecki suggests sticking to bland foods such as toast or crackers, while Dr. Alan H. Ali suggests eggs or a bacon sandwich.  Dr. Carin Van Gelder insists that eating small, frequent amounts is the safest choice.  

  4. Grab some B!  Dr. Baker explains: “Regular heavy alcohol use is associated with B1 deficiency, which can cause alcohol-related brain damage. B1 plays a role in metabolizing alcohol,” so taking B complex vitamins or multivitamins may reduce hangover symptoms.

  5. Sleep it off. Rest is extremely important when recovering from a hangover and sleep will help time go by faster!

  6. Killing Headaches! For painful headaches, Dr. Damian Cornacchia and Dr. Jeffrey J. Juchau  recommend ibuprofen (brand names Motrin, Advil). Dr. Michio Abe agrees and suggests naproxen (brand names Aleve, Naprosyn) as another NSAID.
  7. Magnesium and potassium are other supplements that may help with your hangover symptoms as recommended by Dr. Alon Seifan.  Dr. Heidi A. Fowler suggests eating one or two bananas!

  8. Root out that nausea! Dr. Fowler suggests sipping some ginger ale or ginger tea to fight nausea!

Note: There is some talk out there that spicy or greasy foods can often help with hangovers. Dr. Jeffrey B. Satinover, explains that capsaicin, “the chemical that causes the heat in hot peppers triggers the release of endogenous (body’s own) opioids–morphine like chemicals” that can make eating hot food addictive. “This can somewhat reduce the subjective effects of a hangover–but not by much, not the dangers.”

What to Watch Out For
  1. If “abdominal pain or excessive vomiting occurs, a more serious condition could be present and should be evaluated,” warns Dr. Cornacchia.

  2. Pain relievers. Dr. David J. Rosenfeld and Dr. Pappas recommend being careful with pain relievers, such as Tylenol, as they are mostly metabolized in the liver and can add to liver injury or inflammation created by excessive alcohol. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) would be safer in this respect, but could still aggravate alcohol-induced gastritis if present.

  3. Avoid intense exercise! “There may be more likelihood of muscle cramps, since part of hangover is dehydration and electrolyte imbalances,” warns Dr. Alan Wartenberg.

  4. The hair of the dog. According to Dr. Philip Rosenblum and many others, “there is no medical reason why drinking more alcohol should help you”, so never look to drinking more as a way to get rid of a hangover!
  5. Avoid all alcohol when there is any chance that you could be pregnant. According to Dr. Johanna Fricke, alcohol is a teratogen “that can cause malformations of the brain and other organs from the 3rd week of conception on.” Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders can cause “small brain and body, developmental delays, intellectual disability, ADHD, behavior problems, learning problems, executive functions deficits and more.”
“Time is the only true cure”

…says Dr. Jason M. Hemming.  In the end, the only two definite answers to Dr. Balminder Mangat’s “100 year old question” are time and abstinence. Dr. Stuart Wasser so concisely puts it: “Don’t drink. No problem. Why are you drinking if it keeps leading to hangovers?”

Safe drinking limits for women have been established as no more than 7 per week, and no more than 4 on one occasion, according to Dr. Alan Wartenberg.  For those who drink excessively, Dr. Albers recommends “treatment programs that offer medication to make withdrawal safer, proper nutrition, vitamins and minerals that help the brain recover”.

Wellness Series: Sleep Apnea

Did you know that 1 in 4 men and 1 in 11 women will develop sleep apnea? Dr. Edward Neilsen explains that the condition is characterized by “periods of time when sleepers don’t breathe while they are asleep.”

There are two different types of sleep apnea in adults, both which lead to cessation of airflow to the lungs:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):
As described by Dr. Sherin Ibrahim, OSA is caused by “obstruction of the upper airway either from excessive tissue, inflammation or closure of the trachea while sleeping.”

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA):
As described by Dr. Carlo M. Hatem, CSA is caused by “brain controls not sending the signal to breathe”. This can be the result of a stroke or other brain abnormality.

Of these two types of adult sleep apnea, OSA is much more common and sometimes goes unrecognized.

According to Dr. Yo-El S. Ju, “people with OSA will wake up over and over during the night because they have to wake up to take a breath,” leading to a reduction in blood oxygen saturation. Untreated sleep apnea, according to Dr. Neilsen, “can lead to lung and heart problems, chronic fatigue, weight gain, and high blood pressure.” Yikes!

“Anatomy is King”

Dr. Ofer Jacobowitz, Dr. Aaron Milstone, and Dr. Mark Birnbach enumerate several risk factors for OSA including “weight gain, increased thickness of the throat side walls, a large neck, small jaw size, low muscle tone, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, a deviated septum, and being male.” Even orthodontic treatment that includes extraction of teeth may cause crowding of the arches and tongue and lead to the development of sleep apnea.  Allergies, alcohol, and medications may also play a role. Don’t panic yet, though!

How would you know?

You might have sleep apnea if you:

…snore frequently (and sometimes get noise complaints).
…wake up tired and are sleepy throughout the day.
…frequently fall asleep while watching TV or a movie.
…fall asleep right away when you lay down.

According to Dr. Ruchir P. Patel, “65-75% of individuals that snore have some level of underlying OSA”.  However, though many people try to self-diagnose, Dr. Patrick Melder explains that “clinical data has proven time and time again that self reported symptoms do not accurately predict apnea in a snoring patient”.  In the end, Dr. Birnbach insists the only sure way of knowing if your “oxygen level is below 90% while sleeping” is by participating in a sleep study called a polysomnogram.

3 reasons you should care:

1. According to Dr. James R. Donley, it is “a factor in all chronic diseases and the number one cause of high blood pressure”.

2. Several studies of stroke victims found that 91% of them had sleep apnea (usually CSA).

3. Dr. Farhad Sigari says “some studies estimate that up to 90% of those with sleep apnea haven’t been diagnosed with it yet”! Find out now rather than later!

“Hold out hope, but don’t hold your breath!”

…says Dr. Danny L. Proffitt. Treatments for sleep apnea may include the following:

1. Head, Shoulder, Knees, and Toes! Ears, Nose and Throat! The first step to treating sleep apnea, is no doubt, to “see an Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist to evaluate your tonsils, adenoids and sinus”, recommends Dr. Birnbach.

2. Slim down! If your body mass index (BMI) is “30 or above”, Dr. Melder advises that “weight loss should ALWAYS be considered”. Dr. Bernstein Joel, Dr. Birnbach, Dr. Daniel E. Sampson, Dr. Majid Jamali, Dr. Proffitt and many others agree.

3. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is, according Dr. R B. Sangal, “the best (and fastest) treatment of OSA”. Dr. Pavel Conovalciuc, Dr. Jeffrey Bassman, and Dr. Sal Aragona agree! Dr. Joel adds that the CPAP “will force air through the blockage, which is usually the base of the tongue”. Dr. David I. Astrachan notes that for the “average sleep apnea patient, CPAP should be tried first before any other therapy.” However, Dr. Bassman adds that “many people can’t tolerate the machines for a variety of reasons including discomfort, claustrophobia, etc.”

4. MAD? “After a proper diagnosis, a dentist can make an oral appliance called mandibular advancement splint (MAS or MAD), that can support your airway at night”, says Dr. Gary W. Lederman. Dr. Richard N. Leaderman describes such oral appliances as “small plastic devices that fit in the mouth during sleep, goes over both upper and lower jaws, and positions the mandible forward to open the airway”. Dr. Aragona notes that this should be “completed by a dentist with advanced training in sleep medicine.”

5. Under or UPPP the knife… Dr. David Schleimer introduces two surgical procedures: “one is to surgically reduce the pharynx”, while the other “is to advance both upper and lower jaws”. To learn more, you can “consult with a plastic reconstructive or maxillo-facial surgeon”. Dr. Joel also mentions the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) for those with “extremely enlarged tonsils and a very broad and long uvula”. Dr. Astrachan has “had some patients with noses so obstructed and tonsils so large that he had operated on them first to clear their airway”. If the patient is still not cured, they may still need CPAP. Dr. Pedro J. Hernandez warns, however, that there is a “high failure rate of these surgical procedures” and “complications include airway obstruction, bleeding, hematoma, infection, pain, death, dysphagia, velopharyngeal, etc.”

6. Didgeridoooo who? Dr. Valencia B. Porter explains that “a study in the British Medical Journal in 2006 showed that regular playing the didgeridoo (an Australian aboriginal instrument) was helpful for OSA”. In order to play the instrument, “one must learn ‘circular breathing’ and thus not obstruct the airway”, she adds. Now for those of us who aren’t exactly musical, learning even just the breathing technique could be beneficial as a last resort… or just for fun!

 

Health2020: Designing the Future of Health

This past weekend HealthTap had the pleasure of hosting a small group of truly remarkable people who came together at our office to envision and design the “future of health” in the year 2020.

Unlike gatherings involving mostly thinkers, business people, and participants working in healthcare, this gathering brought together leading engineers, designers, product managers, data experts, and innovators in diverse industries, from social to mobile to education. Speakers included Vinod Khosla, Thomas Goetz, Andreas Weigend, and a panel lead by Stanford d.School instructor Enrique Allen.

The day of brainstorming, thought-provoking debate, and disruption in the health space, included discussions envisioning a future of health where:

 

  • People will own their health data and it will help them understand and manage their health better
  • Doctors and machines will work intelligently and in tandem to improve patient care
  • The interpretation of large amounts of health data will drive change in the consumption, cost, and deployment of medical resources
  • Machine learning methods will improve our ability to diagnose at scale
  • Condition management will be enriched by virtual communities mirroring traditional communal, village-like support systems  
  • Doctor/patient relationships will be managed virtually and in real time
  • Wellness and prevention will draw upon passive sensors, data collection, and genetic insights

This day of inspiring insights, contagious energy, and amazing insights was the start of an amazing conversation on designing the real future of health for all. You can view a few snap shots from the day in this photo gallery.

A special thanks to all of our participants for sharing your inspiring thoughts, contagious energy, and amazing insights!

Health2020 is one for the history books.