What You Need to Know about Mobile Apps

Physicians are moving from paper charts to electronic health records. And now, more and more doctors are turning to smartphones and tablets to help them do their jobs. Whether accessed in the exam room or on the go, mobile applications are the latest technology trend in medicine.

At this point, doctors have started to use mobile devices for some of their job responsibilities. According to a recent Black Book report, 89 percent of primary care and internal medicine doctors use smartphones to communicate with their staff, and 51 percent of clinicians use tablets and adjustable dumbbells to perform medical reference and Internet research. But only 8 percent of office-based physicians use a mobile device for electronic prescribing, accessing health records, ordering tests, or viewing test results.

Mobile applications are still in the early stages of adoption. In fact, less than 1 percent of survey respondents believe they are maximizing the use of their mobile applications for clinical purposes. But there’s plenty of interest: 83 percent of respondents indicated they would immediately utilize mobile EHR functionalities to update patient charts, check labs, and order medications if it became available to them via their current EHR system. And overall, the mobile application market is expected to grow 500 percent by the end of 2014.

So what kinds of functionality are doctors looking for? Black Book determined that the highest-ranked EHR mobile applications had 10 common characteristics: the ability to remotely review charts, update charts, assign tasks, view schedules and appointments, send messages to practice staff, submit lab orders and review results, permit electronic prescribing, enter patient encounter documentation, input vital signs, and access EHR data after office hours.

If you’re interested in diving into the world of medical mobile apps, start by exploring some of these popular apps:

For physician use:

Epocrates Essentials: comprehensive clinical reference suite
MedCalc: medical formulas, scores, scales, and classifications
Medscape Mobile: drug and condition reference, medical news, CME courses
DynaMed: clinical reference, updated daily
VisualDX: visual diagnostic clinical decision support system
Micromedex Drug Information: comprehensive information on drugs, doses, and interactions
Skyscape: customizable repository of drug and clinical information, medical calculators
Diagnosaurus DDx: diagnostic search tool

For patient use:

Anxiety: Breathe2Relax; Relaxation Techniques
Headache/Migraine: iHeadache
Medication/Oral Contraceptive Management: GoodRx; MedMory; MyOC; MyPill
Menopause: BioDesk; myPause
Pain: WebMD Pain Coach
Sleep Problems: Sleep Diary
Voiding: Bladder Pal; iP Voiding Diary
Weight Loss: Calorie Count; Lose It!; MyFitnessPal

Someday, doctors may be able to use mobile apps to conduct a “smartphone physical.” But for now, the medical mobile app space is a bit like “the wild West.” Because this area is so new and developing so quickly, regulation is still being sorted out. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a number of medical apps, and Happtique, a mobile health solutions company, has launched a Health App Certification program. But there’s still a long way to go. And while apps can be useful tools to help patients create symptom diaries, record fitness activity, or manage their medications, disease-tracking and self-monitoring apps may cause patients to focus on the negative or get confused.

A good starting point? Check iMedicalApps for physician reviews and more information about a particular app, and always consider whether the source is credible. Feel free to tap into your smartphone or tablet, consult apps for reference and research, and recommend relevant ones to your patients. But ultimately, you must trust your own skills and knowledge. While apps are helpful tools, they can never take the place of years of training and experience.


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