You hear the time bomb explode and think to yourself “How on earth am I going to answer this question and still remain on schedule?”
“Yes,” you hear yourself saying, “Let me check you what you need.” And then you scramble to check his chart before searching the Internet to find exactly which vaccines are needed for Ghana.
But what if there was a quicker way to find this information?
That’s where travel medicine software comes in. Like a lightsaber , it helps you cut through overwhelming reams of information to get laser-focused information about vaccines, diseases, and safety concerns for any particular destination. All with a few clicks of your mouse.
May the force be with you!
Calmly you say, “Yes you do need some vaccines, and we need to discuss some other health issues about your trip. Let’s get started…. “
And you relax because you’ve subscribed to a travel medicine database, one which quickly and easily aggregates all the important data points to refresh your thoughts before you work with Brandon to help get him ready. You’ll love being able to keep him healthy and safe while he enjoys the trip of a lifetime.
New to travel medicine software?
This is the secret weapon of travel medicine providers. The beauty of this software is the efficiency in which it communicates the talking points and provides educational handouts to give to your patient.
I mention the patient handout because these topics are so new to your patients they can get overwhelmed. It’s important that you provide supplemental information they can review later. This avoids a lot of nodding heads in the office, only to have your patients forget all the information by the time they get home.
Travel medicine software used within an existing practice will complement your existing electronic health records (EHR). It’s a database that you’ll use to supplement what your existing medical record software offers. It’s very similar to Up-to-Date® or Pediatric-Care-Online® but designed for travel. It won’t teach you travel medicine, it just quickly reminds you of the talking points, any recent outbreaks, and provides patient handouts.
And it better be fast, because now you need to spend a lot of time explaining things to your traveling patients, documenting the conversation, and have ready access to answers for the questions your patients might have, in real time.
Frankly, the CDC website or app is not efficient enough to do this. So practically speaking, you need to purchase dedicated software, one that aggregates data from existing authoritative sources and serves it up to you in a format you can use while seeing patients. The software doesn’t replace travel medicine training or membership in professional organizations such as the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM.org), it does help you provide excellent travel medicine care within the workflow of your practice.
Which travel medicine software program will you choose? Tropimed®? Shoreland Travax®? Or Travel Care®?
How to rate travel medicine software
When I moved my travel medicine practice from a freestanding travel clinic into my existing general medical practice, I had a chance to review the current software options. I was able to take TropiMed® for a 30-day trial run. Shoreland® offers a web-based demonstration, and Travel Care® offers training videos. Each option allowed me to create a sample patient handout. I’ll review each product in depth.
Note: I do not have any financial relationship with these products outside of the free trial that is available to everyone.
Most people find the software that is right for them based upon features and price. In my opinion only four(4) criteria are important for successful use within a busy general medical practice:
- Ease of use
- Quality of patient handout
- Malaria maps
The CDC website, although free, is not practical for the pediatrician or family practice doctor since it’s hard to use, does not have readily accessible malaria maps, and doesn’t provide a patient-centered handout.
|Tropimed®||Shoreland Travax®||Travel Care®|
|Ease of Use||Good. Easy to navigate. Use of pop-ups effective.||Average. Easy to navigate. Switching from patient to provider mode cumbersome.||Good. Most items on home page. Home page is very busy.|
|Patient Handouts||Easy to read. Focused. But you need to supplement insect avoidance instructions||Very detailed, almost overwhelming. Insect bite avoidance explained well.||Average. You choose what to include. Not any disease avoidance information on standard report.|
|Provider Education||Excellent- just-in-time information. Pediatric doses in pop ups. Succinct.|
Source is expert clinicians, CDC, WHO
Emphasis on relative risk of infection and vaccine choices.
|Excellent source of ongoing educational summaries and disease outbreaks.|
Source is expert clinicians, CDC, WHO
Emphasis on completeness- can be overwhelming at times.
|Excellent- just-in-time information. Succinct.
Source is internet, CDC, WHO
Emphasis on vaccines and products to sell.
Tropimed® was developed by some of the most experienced travel doctors in the business. It’s available in three languages English, French, and German.
Tropimed®, true to its origins in academia, cites its sources and provides a curated bibliography for any disease and/or treatment choice. Clearly it’s designed for the travel medicine provider, but robust enough for a tropical medicine specialist.
Ease of Use: Quick. It returns summarized information quickly in a pleasing visual layout on the home page. The maps are detailed enough to figure out where malaria is located within a country, and color-coded as to which preventative medications will work where. Simple clicks quickly take you to any country, any disease and produce a patient handout with minimal fuss.
Patient education handout: Good. Succinct general health and safety comments along with vaccine recommendations. The advice is clear and accurate. They are summarized on a few easy-to-read pages. The language on the handout does use some medical jargon (For example: . How diseases are spread is listed as ‘vector’ instead of ‘insect bite’.)
Insect bite prevention is essential to preventing many tropical diseases, but the remarks here are a bit slim. You’ll definitely want to augment this with your own educational material regarding which insect repellents you recommend.
And asthma advice for travelers is absent under pre-existing diseases, a big oversight considering the large numbers of travelers with asthma.
Skip the vaccine scheduler, it’s difficult for a non-provider to read and requires a lot of clicking on your part to complete the set-up. Patients really want to know what to get and you can explain when to get them.
Overall, it’s easy to produce a succinct patient handout. You have control on which items to include, and can preset templates based upon your preferences.
Malaria maps: Easy to read, country-by-country maps. The quantity of cities/towns on the maps is average; you will need to use Google maps to review details of travel with your patients. The click-through to malaria medication dosing is genius and quickly helps you prescribe malaria medications, information your electronic health record may not have handy.
Cost: The most affordable of the bunch.
A single user license is $219 per year. Enterprises will need to call to discuss licensing fees.
Shoreland® is an excellent choice for a beginner. It’s a complete program and sends you periodic updates on diseases via email so that you’re always learning. The professionals that write the disease profiles review the literature are the best and brightest in the business. You can be sure it’s accurate.
Ease of Use: Average. Instead of a home page with multiple options, the Shoreland® interface begins by gathering details about a specific trip. You select from a quick series of screens to produce a summary of advice for either you, the provider, or your patient, but not both. You have to retrace your steps to switch to patient handout after you have finished your counseling. There is an extensive library of information for you to learn about unfamiliar disease and conditions as well as pre-formatted patient handouts for specific conditions.
Malaria Maps: These are the best malaria maps of the three. I don’t know if they have different sources of information, or just more detailed analysis of data. Their maps show 3 levels of risk: none, intermediate, and high risk. They have more details about whether malaria is in the city or only rural areas. Additionally, the geographic detail is greater. When you use these maps and review them with your patients you feel like a true insider, all with just a few clicks.
Patient Handout: Patient handouts are highly detailed, , almost too much so. The language is easy to understand. Almost every possible disease is listed, but without an indication of how common or widespread they are. Patients can get overwhelmed in the long lists of possibilities. You will need to provide some guidance as to what they are most at risk for.
Shoreland® has the best description on how to prevent insect bites. It’s fantastic, with all the specifics on which chemicals to use and how to apply them. Patients really like this feature.
Cost: All this education and robust data comes with a cost. At $971 per year this is the highest price product on the market, three times the cost of the others. Enterprise pricing is available too.
Travel Care® is the new kid on the block. Their source of information is obtained from Internet search. Spun off from iSOS this software is trying to be an all-in-one solution and it’s not clear who they’re targeting: pharmacies, large chain travel clinics, or general medical providers. They appear to be rolling out new features such as ‘ask an expert,’ virtual consults, and offer a variety of products to sell. The emphasis is on making your travel medicine services profitable.
Some features capture patient data, but the company doesn’t know whether or not they’re HITECH compliant, so I would not enter any patient data unless you like visits from the Inspector General. ☹
Ease of Use: The homepage loads quickly and is very responsive. It is so busy it makes my eyes swim – but that’s a personal thing. If you like everything on one page, you’ll like this layout. The navigation appears to be simple (as shown on a training video). If you need more information about a particular disease, it pops up in a clear summary. No references sources are provided, however.
Patient Handouts: Average. The material was rather vague. Routine and recommended vaccines are split apart, which can cause some confusion. A complete list of possible diseases was provided but no information on how common they are or how to avoid them. Most importantly, the standard handout doesn’t have any information on how to avoid insect bites.
More information about any particular topic is available within the program — but you have to hand select each report (malaria, diarrhea, etc) to give to the patient. The information in these ‘mini reports’ appears easy to read.
I was really put off by the upsell of a specific brand of travel insurance on my trial patient handout which I created on the website. Again, that’s a personal thing.
Malaria Maps: Easy to read, country-by-country maps. The quantity of cities/towns on the maps is average; you will need to use Google maps to review details of travel with your patients.
Cost: Very affordable at $279 (discounts for ISTM members). Freestanding clinics, pharmacies and enterprises have different pricing which is available on their website.
Three software programs are up to the task of helping you the pediatrician, student health or family medicine provider properly advise your traveling patients. The one you choose will depend upon your preferences.
I initially subscribed to Shoreland® for a few years while learning travel medicine (at that time I needed the education that is delivered via email). Now that I understand the general principles and caveats I am ready for a lighter weight program such as Tropimed®.
It’s hard to install a workable travel medicine program within your general medical practice. Frankly it’s impossible to do well without using travel medicine software. Having it, will speed up the workflow to an acceptable pace, but it won’t teach you how to be a good travel medicine doctor, the one your patients trust. You can’t learn travel medicine by simply watching videos, either.
If you want to chat with someone who has done it successfully, click here. I’d love to talk with you.
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