PA Builds Apps for Better Bedside Care
Posted by John TrumboComment
Abe Balsamo, PA-C, with his wife

Abe Balsamo with his wife.

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Abe Balsamo, PA-C, comes from a family of PAs. Really. His parents are both PAs, and so is his wife. In fact, his father was one of the earliest PAs when he returned from Vietnam in 1971, where he served as a medic. Balsamo’s wife practices in a family clinic in their hometown of Taos, N.M.

“I saw my parents [practicing as PAs] for so many years, and they were happy with what they were doing,” he recalls, “so I thought that being a PA would suit me very well.”

Balsamo works in the emergency department at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos. He received clinical and didactic training at the University of New Mexico before entering the PA program at the University of Nebraska’s School of Allied Health Professions in Omaha.

Although he practices emergency medicine, Balsamo was attracted to the broad-based training PAs receive. “It’s the model of medical school where everyone is trained as a generalist and does a little bit of everything. That’s the way I see PA school these days. They teach you this broad-based knowledge.”

Balsamo typically works three or four 12-hour shifts per week, treating ER patients alongside a physician. “Either one of us may see the primary care case that walks in the door, or the urgent care case, or the emergent care case,” he explains. “You never really know what’s going to be there each day. We see lots of orthopaedic cases because we have the ski area here. There’s a lot of outdoors activity, so we get a number of strange climbing- and hiking-related injuries.”

Developing apps

Balsamo uses his passion for being a PA to create apps for providers. First, he created the Arrhythmias app, which gives PAs a list of possible arrhythmias. He needed easy-to-access, peer-reviewed information while treating patients. “There are lots of big and involved apps out there, but they’re impossible to use at the bedside,” he says.

“You just click on the arrhythmia you think the patient may have,” he says. “Then, you’ll see a description of the arrhythmia, causes and treatment as well as a representative EKG, all on one page. With just two clicks, you’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips… [to] more accurately diagnose and treat patients.”

Apple Inc. named Balsamo’s Arrhythmias app a top 10 medical app in the USA and a top 100 medical app in more than 54 countries worldwide. Reviewers praise the app as “a great, understandable reference.”

Next, Balsamo recognized the need for an in-depth differential diagnosis app, and he spent six months researching and developing the Emergency Medicine Differential Diagnosis App.

“I took the top 30 complaints that ER patients have—belly pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc. For some of those symptoms, there might be 100 different [causes], and I wanted to capture all of those in an easy way to access at the bedside.” He says the app has also been particularly useful for emergency medical services personnel in the field.

His newest app is simply called the Procedure app, and includes approximately 34 emergency and primary care procedures that providers perform almost every day—everything from removing a toenail to starting a central line. It includes indications and contraindications for medications, necessary equipment, a step-by-step guide, a procedure tracker and a log, as well as videos for most procedures.

Reviewers have called it “a great app and for so much less than the competition!”

Most of Balsamo’s apps cost 99 cents and can be located in the medical section of the iPhone app store. He is also working on Android versions.

Despite the enthusiastic reception his apps have received, Balsamo isn’t looking to give up his day job.

“The reason I make apps is because it’s something I would use at the bedside or in clinical practice,” he says. “I don’t know that I could continue making appealing apps if I weren’t in medical practice and knew what I would actually need to do a better job.”

John Trumbo is a freelance writer and communications professional in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Abe Balsamo’s apps are available on iTunes.

See also: Treating Burns? There’s an App for That

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