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An app for every occasion

Phil has been exploring what Apple has to offer, from detecting swine flu to pinpointing phobias

I have a depressing relationship with iPods. I've had three, and they've all suspiciously died within a few days of the warranty running out (only one of those because I stood on it). I have an unfounded idea that iPods are manufactured with a self-destruct chip. I have a transistor radio I bought with my pocket money when I was eight, and that still works fine. But iPods, like any pet owned by my sons, or any plant owned by my wife, don't seem able to make it past their first birthday.

I wasn't going to get another one but I was seduced by the idea of ‘apps'. It's doubtful any of you are as technologically gormless as me, but just in case, apps are downloadable interactive programmes you stick on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Apps are great. So I bought an iPod Touch. I spent an entertaining couple of hours this afternoon looking at medical apps.

I thought it would be interesting to review some. As Pulse is too cheap to give me a research budget, I have had to compromise by just looking at the crappy free ones. Even so, there is much here that might find its way into our PDPs.

Top of the list has got to be the Swine Flu Virus Detector, a time-saving bonus for the busy GP. You hold your iPhone against the upper arm of the patient, and press ‘scan'. Within seconds the device will tell you if your suspect is carrying the deadly bug.

I was quite excited by this initially, but then I noticed the disclaimer ‘This software does not actually detect viruses and should not be taken seriously. If you have flu symptoms, call your doctor.' So in fact it increases our workload. Nice.

‘Discover Your Phobias!' is another beauty. Type in your particular paranoia and you'll find out what it's called. Scared of looking into mirrors? You've got catoptrophobia. Do steep slopes cause involuntary soiling? That's bathmophobia. What should you do once you've identified your irrational fear? Yep. Call your doctor. There seems to be a theme emerging here.

I was quite charmed by ‘Dr Foot's Foot Pain Identifier', and not just by the coincidence of the said practitioner's name and his speciality (what are the chances of that, eh?) You can click on the area of the foot the pain is coming from and you'll get a list of differential diagnoses. Then you'll be directed to Dr Foot's clinic for treatment, although, I suppose, if you don't want to go private you can always go and see your GP.

Not every app generates work for GPs. Some are merely vexatious. ‘iScrub' is worth a look. It enables you to record the hand-hygiene observations of healthcare professionals accurately ‘without the time-consuming and error-prone use of clipboards' because ‘failure to perform proper hand hygiene is one of the leading causes of healthcare-associated infections'. What a mean, purse-lipped concept. If your patient is pecking assiduously at their iPhone prior to you sticking one of your grubby fingers up their nice clean bum, bear in mind this one might be in use.

But let's end on a positive note. It's now possible, due to the wonders of the internet, to release the healing powers of crystals, long-distance. ‘Healing Crystals' enables you to identify which powerful crystal will heal your particular malady, and for a reasonable fee, the crystal in question ‘which is kept at a specially selected focal point in Slovenia' will be activated ‘for long-distance healing'. Thank God there are at least some principled practitioners out there.

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