There have been some significant developments and noteworthy observations which are creating an atmosphere conducive to the institution of medical apps into widespread use.
On the nursing front, a recent nursing survey which included almost 4000 nurses and nursing students revealed that 71% of nurses use their smart phones for work and 66% of students use it for school. 85% of both nurses and students said they desired an app version of a 2013 drug handbook. In addition, computer tablets have become mandatory for some nursing schools as reported in a New York Times article.
It has already been reported that 85% of physicians have smart phones, and many use them for work-related purposes. More specifically, another survey from the UK has recently shown that the value of mobile apps is more highly appreciated by younger physicians (65% of those graduating in 2000 or later) than older ones (48% of those graduating between 1960 and 1985). In the USA, 40% of emergency physicians and over 30% of cardiologists, urologists, nephrologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists use medical apps (Jackson and Coker survey, 2011)
This adoption readiness and desire to use medical apps as tools for education and patient support is key to widespread use. Patients will in an overwhelmingly fashion use medical apps if their providers recommend them. Sure, older patients need access and education about technology. However, caregivers will be more than willing to monitor and help patients with this in order to improve their own efficiency, gain more firsthand knowledge about the patient’s medical progress and both coordinate and follow the care among providers. Coordination of care with emphasis on sharing data pertaining to medications, appointments, care instructions and remote monitoring is probably the essence of the potential worth of medical apps.
The importance of providers’ interest and initiative in the use of medical apps has profound repercussions. They are the ones who would push the hospitals to adopt hospital app stores and platforms. This in turn will hopefully lead to BYOD (bring your own device) policies and improve IT security standards. Hospitals will start adopting apps which improve their own efficiency and surveillance. Administrators, nurse coordinators, and others will utilize them. So the term ‘medical app’ has implications for operations, education (administrative, provider, patient, caregiver), as well as patient monitoring and care.
The interest that is gaining in medical apps by providers is the first wave of adoption coinciding with the interest by consumers in general to push apps into mainstream healthcare. There will be a Darwinian selection process of the best apps (assisted with third-party evaluators Happtique, Johns Hopkins Univ School of Medicine and others) and then development of future generation improved products and platforms. But the undeniable interest and growing adoption of medical apps by providers and consumers alike, the front line of healthcare, is something which is encouraging and sustainable. I look forward to their downstream effects.