An app that can save lives

(CBS News) IRVING, Texas - When a medical emergency strikes, every second counts, which is where a new iPhone application called iTriage comes in.

"Well I'm convinced he would have died if I had waited," Melissa Ketterer said of an app on her iPhone helped to save her husband's life.

One day in April, Bob Ketterer, with no sense of alarm, said his right arm felt numb. Melissa typed Bob's symptoms into an app called iTriage.

"And it 'numbness' and the top of the list is stroke," Melissa said.

The app not only warned of a possible stroke: it advised going straight to the emergency room and gave directions to the closest one. Bob was having a stroke and doctors stopped it before he suffered major brain damage.

Of what might have happened if she didn't move, Melissa said, "I would have gone, 'Fine, take a nap,' and he could very well be dead."

iTriage was the brain child of private app developers, but the app's inner working rely on data from the U.S. government. The app has a list of doctors and clinics complied by Medicare and other federal records, and its directions to the hospital came from the taxpayer-financed GPS satellite system.

This marriage of Smartphones, public information, and private ingenuity has helped drive an exploding app economy that's grown in value from zero to $20 billion in just four years.

The man responsible for giving away what the government knows is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park. "There is a massively growing array of new services, products and applications that can help Americans take control of their own health and health care," he said.

"You don't need a master's degree to be able to use an app," said Melissa.

To Melissa Ketterer, the benefits of the handheld information industry came clear on an April afternoon. With her husband's life in the balance, she had an app for that.

  • Wyatt Andrews
    Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.