We emergency physicians frequently encounter patient-generated medication errors, but the true impact of patients missing, mixing, doubling, or otherwise incorrectly taking their medicines is probably vastly underestimated. We've all seen the elderly patient with a pulse of 30 who has a bottle of metoprolol and a bottle of Toprol in his oversized Ziploc bag.
Identifying which medicines patients actually take as opposed to what they are supposed to take is the goal of a new and innovative app, MedSnap ID. MedSnap ID, which is currently only for the iPhone 4S and 5 only is able to identify drug names and doses simply by snapping a picture of the pills. We are entering the next phase in app design, in which they are actually using the high-tech sensors on mobile phones (like the iPhone's high-resolution camera) to do some of the tasks we had to perform manually before (type out the imprint, color, and shape of a pill to identify it).
MedSnap is easy to use: simply place all of the patient's pills on a small card sold by MedSnap (Lite Snap Surface, $19.99 for two), snap a picture of the pills, and the app identifies them. The identification process offers a medication name and dosage with a side-by-side comparison of the snapped picture with a reference picture for the medication. You use your human judgment to decide whether it is an accurate match. The required Lite Snap Surface card has alignment cues similar to QR codes that standardize the picture-taking process. After identifying all the pills, you can send the medication list (with pill images) to any email address.
Downloading the app is free, but the annual license costs $69.99 per year per user. The app performed wonderfully in my tests, quickly identifying all my grandmother's pills except for one. MedSnap ID is beautiful, the interface is simple, and the output is very accurate. This is an indispensable app for those who have to obtain medication lists, and want an easier, faster, and better way of doing so.