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iPicto App: Say It With Pictures

Mental health and addictions professionals require tools. For a couple decades, Terry McLeod has been a trailblazer providing those tools in the form of Electronic ...Read More

I heard from a fellow in The Netherlands recently, Erwin van der Hout, who has an intriguing product on the market to facilitate better, more constant communication between consumers and professionals. iPicto is an app for the iPhone that enables these folks to communicate via pictograms.

It turns out that folks diagnosed with dementia, autism, and Asperger Syndrome type memory/brain disorders warm up quite nicely to communicating with pictograms, and iPicto seems to be a good tool for this application. I guess the value in this type of communication tool has been known for quite some time.

Van der Hout’s product delivers hundreds of expressive pictograms literally to the user’s fingertips, since they hit the iPhone, and the app enables selection of the pictograms for Email communications. In our Email Interview, van der Hout shared that his research indicates success in using pictograms for communications of this type not only in clinical environments, but also for parent/child communications…the books on his website were not in English, and I’m challenged that way, so I can’t personally back him up in this matter. Perhaps if you can read in German, you can check out the link above to his website and comment on his references to help clarify this.

In spite of how that may sound, I’m all for better communication, as long as it meets the patient information security rules we need to live by. Pictogram communication could be quite effective for people with serious mental health issues, and ultimately make a number of people’s lives happier. The pictogram libraries would be uploaded to the iPhone and iPad, and since there are hundreds, they could prove quite expressive and improve such communications between professionals and consumers.

iPicto on the iPad enables storage of larger pictograms, and as a layman, I could envision using this technology in treatment sessions.

Of course, as with any good idea, kinks need to be worked out. Wouldn’t the pictogram Emails look interesting in the consumer’s Electronic Health Record (EHR)? If you save Emails to that system, check out the record to assure the pictogram actually displays once it’s saved…sometimes that sort of thing is lost in the technical translation.

Lately there has been a ton of buzz about apps for your SmartPhone, and recently I shared that it’s getting easier to find apps and methods to increase security on the SmartPhone. I’ve made other excursions into this world, discovering ACHESS, an app for addiction treatment for which the manufacturer shared their security measures, and after talking with the ACHESS manufacturer, the security seemed good for our purposes. The industry is taking steps, and is closer to secure communications between consumers and professionals, as required by a number of rules that are ultimately rooted in HIPAA requirements.

At this point, if you plan to engage in consumer/professional communications with iPicto, you’ll need to take your own security measures. A number of solutions are cropping up, and security opinions abound. Among all those claims and the new technology, I continue to make the same suggestion: consult a professional prior to sharing consumer data on a SmartiPhone, even if it’s with the consumer.

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