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USU Experts Design an App to Help You Share Health Decisions With Your Doctor

A hand holds a phone with an app on display

By Kimberly Burke and retired Air Force Col. (Dr.) Catherine Witkop 


Looking for a way to talk with your doctor about a common but sometimes challenging health decision? There’s a new app for that.

The “Decide + Be Ready” mobile app was developed by experts at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to help women make informed decisions about contraceptives. It was designed to empower women to talk with their doctor about their personal values and preferences related to contraception as well as other gynecological concerns, therefore, prompting patient-provider conversations that might not have otherwise taken place during an appointment.

The app is available for download for free from the App Store and Google Play. It provides information about the effectiveness of different contraceptive options, side effects, and how they’re used. It also includes sections on planning for pregnancy as well as considerations for birth control after giving birth, explained retired Air Force Col. (Dr.) Catherine Witkop, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Preventive Medicine at USU.

“This app provides a lot of information about contraception and helps patients figure out which, if any, contraception they’re interested in using,” Witkop said. “They can bring that information to their providers to have a truly informed conversation.”

A screenshot of the "Decide + Be Ready" app
The "Decide + Be Ready" mobile app was
developed by experts at the Uniformed
Services University of the Health
Sciences (USU) and the University
of California San Francisco (UCSF)
to help women make informed
decisions about contraceptives.

Witkop worked with a team from the UCSF’s Person-Centered Reproductive Health Program to create the app, and was sure to include a module specifically for women in uniform.

“It was important to have a module specifically for service women that addresses their unique needs during a deployment and military-specific assignments,” Witkop said. “The app also includes information on controlling a woman’s menstrual cycle while deployed, which is an issue a lot of military women are interested in. You can use contraceptives to help eliminate periods, and that can help during deployments.”

The app can be conveniently accessed from a smart phone where patients can use the app to answer a series of questions about their lifestyle and preferences for contraceptives. The patient then receives a summary of recommended options based on the information they provided. Importantly, the app is not connected to patient care information or any personal identifying information, and is not being used to collect data, Witkop added. The app also allows users to do a “side by side” comparison of different contraceptive methods when determining which methods work best for them. Users can save the answers to their questions about their contraceptive preferences, then share this information with their clinician, informing their doctor of their needs - while also helping to facilitate important discussions.

The app is also not just for women in the military. It has information for men, too, and can be used by,  and is helpful for, civilians as well.   

“This is a tool that will give women access to detailed information about contraceptive methods, and an opportunity to answer their questions about what’s important for their contraception so they can make informed decisions,” she said.

Witkop was able to develop the app with funding from USU’s Defense Health Horizons program, which is designed to research and quickly develop solutions to health care issues and any potential barriers to care. 

To download the app, visit https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/decide-be-read/id1451879300 for the iOS version, or https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=mil.dha.decidebeready&hl=en for Android phones, or simply search for “Decide + Be Ready.”

A woman holds a phone
A new app provides information about contraception with the goal of helping patients make informed decisions with their providers. The app includes a module
to address the unique needs of servicewomen around deployment. (Photo by Sgt. Barry St. Clair)