Mobile health, also known as mHealth, is a rapidly growing area of healthcare. The term refers to the use of mobile devices in medicine and public health. Medical apps aren’t particularly new, but until recently they’ve been targeted primarily towards patients; they focus on diets or medicine, or allow patients to record heart rate, blood sugar and other medical metrics to keep better logs. Most clinician apps have focused on fairly mundane services like searching documents or providing access to specific information.
But as technology evolves, so to does the usefulness of mobile technology for clinicians. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see doctors, nurses, and administrative staff working on tablets and mobile phones rather than flipping through charts or filling out paper reports. More and more medical tasks are being moved to the digital environment, helping clinicians find better, faster, and more efficient ways of getting through their workflows. That’s why we’ve updated our list of favorite mHealth apps. This time we look at them with an eye towards how new technology is helping improve clinic efficiency and patient outcomes.
5 Great mHealth Apps
First on the list is QardioMD, an app-and-peripherals combo that allows patients to record their own medical metrics. The app also lets doctors remotely monitor their patient’s health. Qardio currently offers two devices, a blood pressure cuff and weight scale. Both connect via bluetooth to a patient’s smartphone, which logs the information automatically. Physicians can then access and evaluate the recorded information at their leisure, reducing unnecessary routine visits and saving the physician both time and money. With a wearable ECG monitor on the way, Qardio looks to be trying to further expand it’s usefulness for remote monitoring.
Physicians and clinicians regularly have to deal with abnormal lab results. While many seasoned veterans have the most common thoroughly memorized, no one physician is an encyclopedia. That’s where iLabsDDx comes in. After signing in and selecting a medical profession, the user can input the abnormal lab results directly into their phone or tablet. The app then processes the information, walking the clinician through the process before suggesting a differential diagnosis. With tabs to allow input on diabetic kedoacidosis, acid/base electrolyte abnormalities, acute kidney injury and arterial blood gas, iLabsDDx automates calculations and provides detailed analysis and explanations that doctors can use for quick answers to abnormal lab results. Many iLabsDDx users highly recommended this helpful mHealth app despite the fact that only one version exists that hasn’t been recently updated.
This app focuses on improving surgeon education and training.
Touch Surgery combines cognitive mapping techniques with artificial intelligence and 3D rendering technology to create and codify virtual surgical procedures. It is primarily geared towards surgical students to help them study, but has also found an audience with more experienced surgeons, who can also practice complex procedures. Touch Surgery is best suited for tablets thanks to the added screen size for making precise movements. However, there’s a mobile version available as well. In-app metrics let users track their progress. The app also connects physicians across the world to create a surgical support network.
Epocrates isn’t a particularly new or groundbreaking medical app, and its fundamental use as a reference tool may place it slightly outside the scope of an article about new and modern technology and apps assisting clinician workflow. Nevertheless, it’s a staple in the medical community for a reason; doctors and nurses spend a lot of time referencing current research, and Epocrates has perfected streamlining that process. The award-winning app combines many daily functions so users can access the appropriate information and use it right away. The app includes drug information (and alternative comparisons) and multiple drug interactions. It can also identify pills by picture, search ICD-10 codes, access a clinical practice library and communicate with colleagues and teams via a built-in messaging system. While many apps offer similar functionality, Epocrates provides the most breadth, and has become an mHealth application staple.
Although it’s not an mHealth app in the traditional sense, Burnout Proof is nevertheless a valuable resource. Burnout is a serious concern in busy medial environments, and it’s important for physicians to take care of their mental well-being as well as their patients’ physica health. The brainchild of Dike Drummond, MD, Burnout Proof helps physician burnout by offering mindfulness exercises for maintaining your work-life balance. Don’t let the overly-cheery and almost childlike interface throw you; Burnout Proof offers a wealth of resources for dealing with everyday stress including access to guided exercises, videos, and quick access to a crisis support line.
Medical Charting and Reporting Apps Could Keep Up
While these innovative apps are changing how we think about mHealth, they don’t address other critical aspects of day-to-day healthcare. Practicing surgery techniques on a tablet may be useful for education, and advanced remote health monitoring may help reduce time wasted on unnecessary visits. However, there’s still much of clinicians’ workflows that mHealth has yet to catch up to. Time spent reporting and charting takes up nearly half of a physician’s day . Charting and reporting software, including electronic medical records (EMR) software, are often bulky and intricate. As such, they are generally intended for desktop workstations.
Some Responsive, Cloud-based Medical Documentation Apps
Nevertheless, there are some charting and reporting software products that take advantage of responsive design to provide a useful experience succeed on handheld devices. Software programmers use responsive design to make software layouts optimize for any device or screen size. Responsive design often takes much less time to build and to maintain than its counterpart, adaptive design . Synoptec, for example, uses responsive design so users can access the software via both traditional workstations and mobile apps. It uses synoptic reports for surgery, radiology, and pathology in place of narrative transcription. Customizable templates make it easy to access and use on mobile devices, with predefined choices, check-boxes, radio buttons, and short text fields .
Another mHealth documentation option is CareCloud Companion. The mobile portion of the CareCloud suite, Companion offers cloud based healthcare software alongside personal scheduling, so users can refer to secure, private patient information from anywhere . Companion syncs with other desktop-only CareCloud tools, including revenue cycle management, practice management, and patient engagement. This way, you can access information quickly from a handheld device or dedicate more focused time at a workstation.
As mHealth continues to develop, more apps will promise to save time or improve outcomes. Experiment with an open mind, and select the option that improves your overall routine and healthcare practice. As technology continues to improve, ensure your applications and software take advantage to improve the clinical experience for both providers and patients.
- Sinsky C, Colligan L, Li L. Prgomet M, Reynolds S, Goeders L, Westbrook J, Tutty M, Blike G. Allocation of physician time in ambulatory practice: A time and motion study in 4 specialties. Ann Intern Med. 2016; 165 (11): 753-760. doi: 10.7326/M16-0961
- Responsive vs. adaptive design: What’s the best choice for designers? Studio by UXPin Web site. https://www.uxpin.com/studio/blog/responsive-vs-adaptive-design-whats-best-choice-designers/ Accessed March 7, 2017.
- Synoptec Clinical Documentation System. Softworks Group Web site. http://www.softworksgroup.com/synoptec-product-home/ Accessed March 7, 2017.
- CareCloud Companion. CareCloud Web site. http://www.carecloud.com/companion/ Accessed March 7, 2017.