An App to Improve Physician-Patient Communication

If you’re a patient who will be undergoing a procedure, you’ve likely experienced it: sitting across from your doctor, unsure if you’ve forgotten to ask something crucial.

Published in Insight - January/February 2016

If you’re a doctor, you know the other side of this equation: trying to help patients who are confused about a procedure and eager for more information.

Enter Doctella, an app to improve communication between doctors and their patients. Based on Johns Hopkins’ pioneering use of safety checklists, the app provides patients with checklists of questions to ask before, during and after a medical procedure.

“Patients find Doctella helpful to frame the discussion we’re having,” says Timothy Pawlik, chief of surgical oncology.

Doctella is free for patients and Johns Hopkins Health System physicians, and Pawlik encourages his patients to use it.

When patients create a profile, they can then personalize the checklists with their notes and answers. Physicians can create a personalized Doctella page with customized answers and  videos on, for instance, how to change a dressing. They can also set Doctella to send patients reminders about taking their medications. 

The app was created by Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality Director Peter Pronovost, anesthesiologist Asad Latif and former Johns Hopkins surgeon Adil Haider.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) and Bloomberg School of Public Health graduate students assisted in developing Doctella. The app’s parent company, Patient Doctor Technologies, has a content license from JHTV and has filed a patent covering the electronic patient and doctor communication.

Pronovost says checklists are just the beginning of Doctella’s development: He and his team will be adding questions on chronic diseases and linking the app to MyChart so that patients can navigate easily between both.