How many times have you gone to a doctor’s appointment armed with questions you’d like to ask only to have them leave your head in the moment once you’re there? Or you are with a loved one at his or her doctor’s appointment copiously taking notes so you can remember everything the doctor said? Or, even worse, you’ve just been given a life-altering diagnosis and your mind went blank after that? These are all scenarios that can and do happen to millions of Americans each year. In today’s busy world where healthcare professionals seem to have fewer hours in their day to speak with patients, it makes the face-to-face time that you do have with them during your appointment even more priceless.
Enter Abridge, the digital patient advocate that goes where you go. How great would it be to have a tool, or in this case, an app, that allows you to record the conversation (called ‘Medical Mentions’ in the app) between you, the patient, and your healthcare provider in real time so you can easily have an abridged transcript of the medical concepts you discussed in your appointment? That’s exactly the goal of Abridge. The app, which was created by a cardiologist and inspired by his own family’s experience with a rare disease, is meant to be an easy-to-use, secure, and reliable way for patients to record and remember important moments from their doctor’s visits, like follow-ups, future tests, and next steps in care.
So, how does Abridge actually work? After you’ve downloaded the app, you can begin recording a conversation between you and your doctor or you can start your own recording to keep track of symptoms or prescriptions. Your medical mentions will be securely stored in the app, so that you can replay them later.
Remember that last scenario I gave you about receiving a life-altering diagnosis? That’s exactly what happened to me in April 2013. If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you may recall that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 26 after seeing my gynecologist for a routine annual exam. While that appointment in and of itself was alarming, what came next is where I wish an app like Abridge had existed. I can vividly recall my gynecologist asking if he could perform a neck check at the start of the exam. Surprised by the question, I agreed, but in my mind wondered why the ear, nose, and throat specialist who I had seen for more than a decade had never asked that same question. But no one could have prepared me for the next statement out of his mouth: Has anyone ever told you that you have a thyroid nodule on the right side of your thyroid? After hearing that, he mumbled on about an endo-something, followed by which test I should go for next. By the time I got dressed and headed to the reception area for check-out, I had to ask the receptionist to again inquire with the doctor about what exactly he wanted me to do next.
The days after that appointment were equally blurry, too, as I tried to make sense of the scripts my doctor gave me with notes that looked like hieroglyphics written on them. Learning names of specialists like endocrinologist, which I’m pretty sure I had never heard of before then, making appointments, and trying to keep it all straight in my head—combined with my own insatiable need for information and answers—was exhausting.
By the time I was able to get an appointment to see an endocrinologist, I was starting to feel like I had my head on straight. I had questions prepared and felt confident in my own abilities as a patient. But quickly, my appointment took an unexpected turn. Mere minutes after closing the door and having a seat, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma. I heard the words roll off my endocrinologist’s tongue but missed everything after the carcinoma part. For the next hour, I felt like I was Charlie Brown listening to the famous “wah wah” voice of Miss Othmar, the beloved teacher of the Peanuts gang. I left the appointment feeling defeated and having more questions than answers. I remembered he spoke of having to take some medication called…Cyanide, was it? Oh wait, Synthroid!
An app like Abridge could have been a game-changer for me during my thyroid cancer diagnosis, and it was that experience and the frustration that came with being a patient that led me to become a patient advocate. Abridge would have come in handy instantly by helping me to record the next steps and follow-up appointments my gynecologist wanted me to have after he found the nodule. But my favorite features of Abridge are that it can help you track symptoms, define medical terms, and even give you insights into medication and potential side-effects.
As a seven-year thyroid cancer survivor, I routinely go for blood work and see my endocrinologist every six months for follow-up exams and neck ultrasounds. While I have been blessed to have amazing friends accompany me to many of my appointments, I know that it’s not always feasible for people to have someone in their corner to advocate for them. So, I’m looking forward to bringing my new digital patient advocate, with me to my next appointment and encourage others to get acquainted with Abridge.
I also love that Abridge is easy to use and navigate, even for people who aren’t tech-savvy. As a caregiver to my 92-year-old grandmother, who is a two-time breast cancer survivor who sees many doctors, the fact that she can use Abridge and record moments from those appointments that I can’t make puts my mind at ease. Often, if I’m not there with her, she will forget to mention symptoms to the doctor, or she won’t be able to relay to me what the doctor advised her. Abridge gives both of us peace of mind because she knows I will be able to feel like I was in the room and then I can help explain what the doctor said to her. It’s also helpful to have all her information in one central place, which makes future appointments much easier for both of us.
Are you or someone you love ready to try Abridge? Download the app, so the next time you’re at a doctor’s appointment you know that you have all the tools you need to be the best advocate for yourself or for someone you care about. Together, we can create a bridge between patients and the medical community so that everyone can feel heard.
Thank you, Abridge, for sponsoring this post. All views and opinions are my own.