First athena-Epocrates co-branded app targets "superbugs"

By Jonah Comstock
12:32 pm
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device_Ecoli1Epocrates and athenahealth, which bought Epocrates for $293 million at the beginning of this year, launched their first joint product, a free mobile app called Epocrates Bugs + Drugs that uses big data to address "superbugs" or drug-resistant bacteria.

"What's exciting about this is it takes athena data and it pulls the big data into a moment of care that allows a physician to provide a personalized solution," Abbe Don, Epocrates' recently hired VP of User Experience told MobiHealthNews on the sidelines of the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California this week.

When a doctor has a patient with a bacterial infection, he or she can identify the specific bacteria by ordering a culture, but that takes two to three days, and doctors typically prescribe an antibiotic in the meantime to get treatment started. But choosing the wrong antibiotic -- one that a specific bacteria is immune to -- will do nothing for the patient and could help empower the bacteria by continuing to build up its resistance.

The new app, launched on iOS7, draws in geolocated data from athenahealth's EHR. The clinician enters his or her city or zip code (anywhere in the contiguous United States) and the app tells him or her the most common bug found in urine, skin, and blood in the area. Doctors can make an educated guess on the nature of their patient's infection. The app then grabs up-to-date data on how resistant that bacteria is to each available antibiotic and lists them in order. Once the doctor picks an antibiotic, the app takes them to a natively displayed Epocrates page for that drug with details adult and pediatric dosing and contra-indications.

The app is designed to be intuitive, containing only four screens and including a large colorized monograph of the bacterium itself on each particular organism's page. Don said the current system for making these determinations relies on data that is (A) only from that specific hospital, (B) updated at most quarterly, and (C) accessed via a difficult-to-read printed table.

This is the first joint product since athena completed its acquisition of Epocrates in March. Don said that Epocrates had the idea for the app on the back burner even before the acquisition, but the combined timing of the iOS7 launch and a recent CDC study on superbugs made this the right time to launch.

"We wanted to do something that could respond to iOS7," she said. "Something that would be clinically relevant, and that would show the power of combining athena and Epocrates content."