In the last year we have seen a marked increase in the use of cell phones and wireless Internet access. With research such as the Pew Internet & American Life Project Mobile Access 2010 (PDF 1.2MB) report, I am reminded as a Federal leader from NIH’s National Library of Medicine (NLM) that the Federal government needs to move into the mobile sphere. NLM is one of several Federal agencies already recognizing that the people we serve are mobile and searching for critical health information.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with AIDSinfo, we provide access to the official medical treatment guidelines for HIV/AIDS and related opportunistic infections. Not only are we a website, but we have health information specialists who answer phone calls, e-mail, and an online chat to help with using the information. Besides the guidelines, we have related patient education materials, information about approved and investigational drugs, homework help for students (but we don’t write their reports for them, much to their dismay!), and a very popular glossary of HIV-related terms. While the main users of AIDSinfo are health professionals, the glossary is used by patients, general consumers, students, patient educators, and other health professionals.
The glossary is available in both English and Spanish. It was originally developed as a printed booklet, before everyone was on the web. Since it was so popular, it was one of the first things that we put on the website. And naturally, it was the first thing that we thought of when we realized that smart phones gave us new opportunities to share our information. We almost simultaneously released both a mobile version of the AIDSinfo website as well as an iPhone app for the glossary.
The mobile version of the website allows the user to access all the information available as long as there is connectivity, while the app has all the information right in the phone with no internet connection needed. The glossary app has over 850 terms in both English and Spanish. You can flip back and forth between the two languages making this a translation helper as well as a glossary. The app has been downloaded from the iTunes store close to 1800 times since its launch in mid-October. Right now we only have an iPhone version of the app; we are also developing versions for Android and Blackberry platforms.
So, what next? We can’t neglect the content, so we need to review and update as well as add new terms. I’d like to add audio for pronunciation of unfamiliar terms in both Spanish and English. We also have a companion Spanish language website for AIDSinfo, called infoSIDA, and will be developing a mobile optimized version of that site. And we hope to release the Android version of the glossary app in late spring, then start working on an app for the drug database. The drug database is more complex than the glossary – it has both a technical and patient version in English, patient information in Spanish, and audio pronunciation of the drug names in both English and Spanish.
As we heard at the January Federal HIV/AIDS Web Council meeting from our Federal colleagues and Susannah Fox of Pew Internet, mobile technologies absolutely warrant our attention as we move ahead in health communication. AIDSinfo will continue to provide current, accurate and understandable health information. I hope all of you will download the glossary app and tell us your thoughts about this app!